What do Intel and the US federal government have in common? Neither of them has a supercomputer. And that’s because Intel’s ability to build a 4th-generation Xeon ‘Sapphire Rapids’ superprocessor is declining, most recently when it was revealed that the chip had 500 bugs that the company was supposed to fix.
The Sapphire Rapids chips have been delayed several times over the past two years without explanation. Last week, computer watchdog site Igor’s Lab revealed that Intel was working on 500 bugs that took 12 steps to fix. ouch.
The Sapphire Rapids processor increases the number of cores to 60 and provides support for Advanced Matrix Extensions (AME), Data Streaming Acceleration (DSA), and HBM2E memory. To say the least, the chip is a next-generation monster of a processor designed to work with so-called “supercomputers.”
But 500 bugs that require 12 steps is a monster of a project to fix. Steppings are a system used by Intel to identify the changes to a unit. They consist of a letter and a number, such as A2. A number change means a minor repair or adjustment has been made, while a letter change means a major design overhaul has been made. The Sapphire Rapids bugs require three letter changes and nine number changes.
Intel’s scalable data center CPU has been in the works for several years as part of a major contract with the United States Department of Energy (DoE) to build the Aurora supercomputer, a massive data center capable of handling the vast computing needs of the government. without the need for third-party cloud providers, such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. The government unveiled contracts for three supercomputers in 2019.
Two of them are hybrid computers built by AMD and HP. The Aurora is the only fully Intel-built computer on the contract. None of them are operational yet, although the AMD/HP computers have been built and are being tested. It’s the Intel-only Aurora holding the project back.
These Intel chips were to be expected in the first quarter of this year after a year and a half of setbacks. It now looks like the US government will have to wait much longer.