Intel Skulltrail Hands-On Performance Preview
You’re not a tech geek unless you’ve seen the movie Sneakers
at some point in your life. In this geeky version of Ocean’s 11
from 1992, director Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams
) and a team of A-list Hollywood actors such as Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Ben Kingsley, Dan Akroyd and James Earl Jones plan a heist to recover a top-secret code breaking device developed by the National Security Agency.
One year after the movie was released, that code-breaking device became a reality when the National Security Agency (officially) became the owner of a Thinking Machines Corporation CM-5/512, a 512-node SuperSPARC I based supercomputer that even to this day, looks
like a supercomputer.
Now, fast forward to February 2008, and I’m writing this article on an Intel Skulltrail which offers about 3 times the computational horsepower of the National Security Agency’s CM-5 supercomputer.
Not your father’s V8
Intel was first to market with the “V8” platform built around the Intel Xeon architecture. FiringSquad gave you one of the first independent reviews of that technology. While V8 was “just” a pair of quad-core CPUs, it was actually much more. By “branding” 8-core technology into a platform, it allowed normal users a chance to buy workstation class PC’s. Intel made the Mac Pro a reality. Pause for a moment and consider the humbling reality that today, in 2008, a soccer-mom with no knowledge of computer hardware can walk into a suburban shopping mall and walk out with an 8-core Mac Pro that has more power than the fastest supercomputer in 1993. Now imagine using all that power for games and multimedia. :)
The father of Intel’s V8, Francois Piednoel, was able to transform 8-core processing from the realm of esoteric engineers into a product accessible to high-end consumers. Quite frankly, as long as you were willing to pay, you could get it. With the success of Intel V8, Francois set his sights on the next generation product: Skulltrail.
The big difference? Skulltrail was engineered for gamers and home users.