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IBM says Xeon Phi will not be popular in Bluegene clusters

ISC 12 Big Blue sticks to Power
Mon Jun 18 2012, 16:56

BIG IRON MAKER IBM doesn't expect to ship many Bluegene clusters sporting Intel Xeon Phi accelerators.

IBM made a very strong showing in the Top 500 list published today with four Bluegene clusters appearing in the top 10. While the firm publicly supports Intel's Xeon Phi accelerator, showing a board fitted onto a Bluegene compute node, one of the firm's high performance computing (HPC) contingent told The INQUIRER on the ISC show floor that it doesn't expect to ship many clusters using Xeon Phi boards.

Intel has been waxing lyrical about how many vendors support its Xeon Phi products, with names such as Cray and SGI all coming out in favour of the soon to be released accelerator. Even though IBM is one of the firms that officially support Xeon Phi, the IBM HPC person we spoke with, who wanted to remain anonymous, said Bluegene customers' workloads are unlikely to be suitable for Intel's accelerator.

IBM's Bluegene has become the cluster of choice for many HPC sites and Intel must have been pleased to get Big Blue's initial support. However if IBM knows that many of its HPC customers won't be interested in Xeon Phi then it is somewhat of a hollow victory for Intel.

Being fair to Intel, its Xeon Phi isn't in production yet and the firm could well work its magic with developers drumming up support for its accelerator. Intel's Xeon Phi has a number of advantages over other accelerators, namely the ability to run native x86 code without any major modifications.

It should also be noted that none of IBM's Bluegene clusters in the top 10 feature accelerators, and even Intel admits that Xeon Phi isn't able ot match the energy efficiency of IBM's mature cluster. So Intel needs to both optimise energy efficiency and improve developer support in order to push Xeon Phi into upcoming HPC clusters, and perhaps even into Bluegene. µ


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