Intel’s Data-Center Flavor of Xe GPU Will Support Ray Tracing
Intel released a new blog post today by Jim Jeffers that details the company’s efforts to improve 3D rendering and professional applications. Intel provides a number of resources for advanced professional rendering studios, including software solutions for ray tracing like Intel Embree, and plugins for applications like Maya.
Jeffers’ post covers how Intel is improving its Hydra OSPray plugin integration with major partners like Disney Animation and Pixar, and to make further open source code additions to the Intel Open Volume Kernel Library. He also shares some details on how Intel’s upcoming Xe graphics architecture will support ray tracing, at least in its data center configuration.
It’s worth reading a significant section of the blog post to see how Intel is discussing the space. The first part of this section is framed around discussing how CPUs, not GPUs, remain the ideal platform of choice for high-end 3D rendering. This has historically been true, and while GPU ray tracing has been a hot topic of late on the consumer side, professional 3D rendering still often relies on CPUs.
We are designing the Intel Xe architecture as a cohesive acceleration companion to our continuing roadmap of Intel Xeon processors… I’m pleased to share today that the Intel Xe architecture roadmap for data center optimized rendering includes ray tracing hardware acceleration support for the Intel Rendering Framework family of API’s and libraries.
Your existing investments in graphics and rendering solutions based on Intel Rendering Framework open source products will seamlessly map to the exponential performance benefits of these flexible accelerated platforms. Further, ray tracing as a general computational technique for a variety of simulation computation beyond rendering is rapidly growing. To put it succinctly in my own words “Leave no transistor behind” by creating a holistic software and compute environment ready to maximize your workflow for exponential benefits.
This is an important set of acknowledgments. Intel is essentially guaranteeing that investing in its rendering platform now with software optimization will continue to pay dividends once Xe is in-market. It’s explicitly trying to connect the idea that Xe and Xeon fit together and should be deployed together optimally for maximum performance. The emphasis, however, remains on Xeon, with Xe described as an accelerator companion. That, too, suggests how Intel is approaching Xe, positioning it as an additional capability next to Xeon, as opposed to an equal partner in Intel’s business stack. Given that the company doesn’t even have silicon in-market yet, that’s probably a smart move.
Intel has said nothing about whether Xe will also support ray tracing in consumer applications. The two markets are not the same; AMD also supports ray tracing via Radeon Pro Render, but has made no move to deploy ray tracing capabilities in DX12 games for the Radeon Vega 64 or Radeon VII.