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Nvidia says Intel's Xeon Phi helps it win new business

Intel lends credibility to accelerators
Thu Nov 22 2012, 17:02

CHIP DESIGNER Nvidia claims that Intel's entry into the high performance computing (HPC) GPGPU market validates the use of accelerators and increases the market for its own Tesla GPGPU accelerators.

Intel's Xeon Phi landed at the Supercomputing 2012 (SC12) conference and scored some impressive wins, including a cluster being placed in seventh place on the prestigious Top 500 list. Despite Intel's impressive entrance, Nvidia told The INQUIRER that it validates what Nvidia has been saying about accelerator based HPC performance and brings in new potential customers.

Sumit Gupta, GM of Nvidia's HPC business unit sees Intel's entrance as an opportunity to capitalise on a big brand validating accelerator based HPC computing. Gupta said, "We are delighted to have Intel in the market. If you think about it, until a year ago Nvidia was the only company trying to convince everybody to move to this accelerated way of computing and it's a hurdle. If you have the leading company there, Intel, telling everyone 'no no no, CPUs are going to get better', it is much harder to keep growing the market. Now Intel is telling everyone the same thing, [...] they are basically saying you have to use an accelerator and obviously they will promote their accelerator."

With Intel backing accelerators as the way to increase computing performance in clusters, Gupta said more of the market is seeing accelerators as a viable option for clusters. Gupta said, "So what we've seen actually happen is the pace at which this market is growing has dramatically increased. In the past I would always run into customers that would say, 'I am not going use GPUs or accelerators', now every one of those customers is saying, 'of course I'm going to use accelerators', and they are going to do a bake-off between us and Intel."

Gupta admitted that Nvidia won't win every customer, adding, "Obviously Intel is going to win a few." However Gupta said Intel's presence has in many ways made it easier for the firm to do business in this market. "We were a very small portion of the HPC market, now the entire HPC market is addressable, because every customer at [SC12] was telling us they are going to use an accelerator and they going to benchmark both and try both, and they all realise that programming both the accelerators is exactly the same because they have tried it," said Gupta.

Intel's brand brings in a lot of business and credibility even in the hard-nosed world of HPC, and its decision to get into the accelerator business is likely to help Nvidia as Gupta mentions. While Intel might have increased Nvidia's potential market, the challenge for Nvidia is not simply winning business but iterating its product cycle fast enough to keep on track with Intel.

Even though Nvidia's Tesla K20X powers Titan, the highest performing cluster on the Top 500 right now, Intel's track record of ramping up performance is formidable, and given that it already has a cluster in the top 10, Nvidia will need to ensure that it has the performance to overcome Intel's hardware and branding. µ


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