Intel needs to fix 500 bugs in Sapphire Rapids superchip


What do Intel and the US federal government have in common? None of them have a supercomputer. And that’s because Intel’s ability to build a super 4th Gen Xeon “Sapphire Rapids” processor is steadily slipping back, most recently when the chip was revealed to have 500 bugs the company needed to fix.

Sapphire Rapids chips have been delayed multiple times over the past two years for no reason given. Then, last week, computer monitoring site Igor’s Lab revealed that Intel was working on 500 bugs that required 12 steps to fix. Ouch.

Intel

The Sapphire Rapids processor increases the core count to 60 and brings Advanced Fabric Extensions (AME), Data Streaming Acceleration (DSA), and HBM2E memory support. To say the least, the chip is a next-generation monster of a processor designed to work with so-called “supercomputers.”

But 500 bugs requiring 12 steppings is a monster of a project to fix. Stepping is a system used by Intel to identify changes to a unit. They consist of a letter and a number, for example A2. A number change signifies a minor correction or adjustment, while a letter change signifies a complete design overhaul. Sapphire Rapids bugs require three letter changes and nine number changes.

Intel’s scalable data center processor has been in the works for several years as part of a major contract with the US Department of Energy (DoE) to build the Aurora supercomputer, a massive data center capable of handling extensive government computing needs 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 in the contract. None of them are operational yet, although AMD/HP computers have been built and are being tested. It’s the Intel-only Aurora that’s holding the project back.

These Intel chips were due to arrive in the first quarter of this year after a year and a half of setbacks. Now it looks like the US government will have to wait much longer.

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