Huang talks Larrabee, x86 compatibility

Written by Tim Smalley

August 26, 2008 // 2:15 a.m.

Tags: #compatibility #computing #gpu #gpus #larrabee #nvidia #nvision #nvision-2008 #x86

During a roundtable discussion with Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang earlier today, he commented on Larrabee once more.

We don’t know what Larrabee is because it hasn’t shipped yet, so we can’t really talk about it. And also by the time that Larrabee ships, Nvidia’s technology will be so much more advanced,” said Huang.

The reason why Larrabee is so important to Intel is because GPU computing is really important. Our GPUs today are completely programmable, completely general purpose and they support C – the modern computing language.

What is the number one benefit of x86?” he asked in his typical rhetorical fashion. “x86 is all about binary compatibility. Nobody ever said that if I built a new computer architecture, the one I would create is x86 unless I wanted binary compatibility.

So then the question becomes: is Larrabee binary compatible with Windows? Is Larrabee binary compatible with x86 and 64-bit x86? Is Larrabee binary compatible with SSE 3, 4, 5, 6? The answer is no,” said Huang.

He then went onto ask what the benefit of x86 really is. “It has tools and so does every other CPU. ARM, PowerPC, Cell – they all have tools. The reason why these tools exist is because most of them are high-level language tools. Therefore, I think that part of is a bit of a distraction and a bit of a smokescreen.

The secondary thing is that we also believe in x86 – we believe in heterogeneous computing. The CPU and GPU should work together and the CPU is x86, so I’m x86 as well,” Huang added.

Nvidia can’t seem to help itself when it comes to talking about Larrabee these days, but I guess that’s what you get when a company like Intel starts to bang on your door.

With that said though, some of the points Huang makes are very important – how many developers code in machine code or SSE these days? Most use a high-level language and then a compiler with switches for hardware with different capabilities (like newer versions of SSE). In many respects, CUDA is very similar because it’s essentially C with an Open64 compiler and some additional threaded optimisations.

While I can’t say I’m pleased that Nvidia is banging the Larrabee drum once more, I’m also starting to feel that the x86 drum is starting to get a bit tired as well – at least Huang decided against referring to Larrabee as ‘slideware’ again. Discuss in the forums.
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