This week I’ve got a grab bag of random thoughts
How to stop
As most of you should know by now, Intel has cut back on the
IDF conferences. To which we say Thank you! But we’re not just being selfish. I would imagine the shareholders are
saying it, too. Not because IDF loses money—it doesn’t, it more than pays for
itself, just ask the exhibitors.
But more important is the cost to the senior and middle
management in preparing for and presenting at the show. Weeks of work go into
those 30- to 45-minute presentations. Multiply that by N conferences around the
world, and you’ve got a colossal expense, and lost opportunity costs, and these
days, no one, and maybe Intel most of all, can afford to carry such a burden.
Intel has shown some industry leadership (again) and just said, No! I think we
can all learn something here.
Menage à trois
The AMD, Nvidia, ATI affair
If you read the
Mt. Tiburon Testing Labs story in this issue, you saw that we got our
hands on a supercomputer that AMD is calling the 4×4. It’s a tour de force,
with four CPUs, two chipsets, and up to four GPUs. For the demo units, AMD
choose Nvidia’s SLI chipsets, and naturally Nvidia’s AIBs. The unit we played
with has two GeForce 7900GTXs. AMD refers to this as their “platform launch
Almost everyone (except us, of course) asked the AMD folks,
Why Nvidia? Didn’t you just acquire ATI? AMD says this is just part of their
openness policy, proving they are not going to try to shove down the OEMs or
the consumer’s throat any single platform solution.
That’s all true, but the practicality of it is that this
platform was being designed before the ATI acquisition came to be, and
switching suppliers would have set it back months, and with Intel pulling in
their quad-core release date AMD had to stay the course. Also, Nvidia does have
a better reputation for dual GPU, so nothing was really lost by ATI or AMD with
Does that mean Nvidia has a lock on 4×4? No. Probably when
the R600 comes out we’ll see a 4×4 with ATI Crossfire chipsets and at least two
R600s in it. AMD will then say, “Hey, it’s just part of our openness strategy,
we’ve not shoving Nvidia down anyone’s throat either.”
My last computer
More on four-by-four
Figure 2. The Beast, Jon’s last computer? (Photo: JPR)
You’ve heard me blath-er on about supercomputers; you know
I’m fascinated by them and that it’s a longstanding infatuation. Well, now I
truly have one, in almost any dimension or parameter you want to measure it.
As I said, the Beast (AMD’s 4×4) we wrote about in the MTTL
section of this issue has four CPUs, two GPUs, and a PPU, which we added. In
just raw FP power I think that comes to at least a TFLOPS. Now think about
that—on a desktop for under $3,000.
Aside from the raw processing power, which will just go up
in heat if not exploited by the proper software, this system can get even more
powerful. When AMD comes out with their monolithic quad-core chip, it will drop
into the 1207 socket and provide 2x the number of CPU cores. And, as mentioned
in the MTTL article, the motherboard can hold up to four graphics AIBs. The
DIMMs can be expanded to 8 GBytes per socket and that too will get larger, and
up to 16 SATA HDDs, each with 1 TByte if desired.
Now, I’m not totally sure this is what some OEMs want to
hear; they’d like to sell us a new PC every year, or at least every other year.
I don’t think that’s going to happen here for a while. Combined with the
multi-tasking capabilities of Vista and its graphics exploitation, a whole host
of new multi-threaded applications and games, Moore’s Law continuing to make
these beasts ridiculously affordable, and really scalable architecture like
hyperlink and quad-cores, the motherboard, if designed properly, will support
several generations of expansion and upgrading. We may have to go to 1kW power
supplies, but even they are affordable and physically adaptable.
So unless you just get tired of looking at the case, with a
4×4 you could be using the same basic platform for several years and never be
embarrassed by its performance, or your productivity.