AMD Chases NVIDIA with New FireStream GPU Offerings

By Michael Feldman

June 23, 2010

AMD today announced its next-generation FireStream GPU accelerator boards for HPC and other technical computing applications. The FireStream 9350 and 9370 represent the company’s attempt to match the pace NVIDIA has set with its “Fermi” Tesla-20 GPU offerings launched this spring. The new PCIe boards from AMD are based on the ATI Radeon HD 5870 processor, which was launched last year for the consumer market.

AMD has kicked up the peak performance on the new top-end FireStream, more than doubling the peak floating point performance of AMD’s current generation 9270 product. The dual-slot 9370 device boasts 2.64 teraflops of single precision performance and 528 gigaflops of double precision performance. From a raw FLOPS standpoint, this matches up well with NVIDIA’s latest “Fermi” parts, which deliver 1.03 single precision teraflops and 515 gigaflops double precision. The 9370 comes with 4 GB of local GDDR5 memory, while Tesla-20 offers the option of 3 or 6 GB (in the M2050 and M2070, respectively). Both top-end AMD and NVIDIA GPU computing devices max out at 225 watts.

The lesser 9350 offering is a single-slot board that delivers 2.0 teraflops of single precision and 400 gigaflops of double, and memory on this product is just 2 GB. Since the power consumption on the 9350 is a very modest 150 watts, this would be the clear choice if you wanted to max out density and performance per watt and didn’t require more than a couple of gig of local memory.

Setting aside the impressive performance and power metrics, the newest FireStream products are still missing some key features for HPC apps. Not the least of which is error corrected memory (ECC), which NVIDIA has incorporated in its latest generation Tesla-20 products. Dropping a few bits here and there is fine for traditional graphics processing, and even some technical computing codes, but for many HPC applications, ECC is a hard requirement.

NVIDIA also added L1 and L2 caches to its Fermi architecture, as well as support for asynchronous data transfers, concurrent kernels, and C++. That makes the NVIDIA GPUs more CPU-like than its predecessors, and at least theoretically, more friendly to traditional parallel programming techniques. AMD has stuck with a more traditional graphics processor architecture, which means more silicon real estate is devoted to additional GPU cores, rather than general-purpose computing functionality.

However, AMD’s more conservative strategy could make the FireStream products a prime choice in some application domains. For example, rendering server farms that harness raw GPU power to turn bits into image streams are very well-suited to traditional graphics processors. In fact, most scaled-out visual computing apps could take advantage of the high FLOPS performance on the FireStream, and not miss ECC at all. As the Web becomes more immersed in high-def 3D visualization, demand for GPU-accelerated servers could take off.

OTOY, a company that provides visualization solutions for the entertainment industry, is a big AMD fan and thinks the FireStream technology is a good fit for its emerging cloud rendering business. The FireStream press release quotes OTOY founder Jules Urbach, who says: “Rendering 3D video game graphics by way of a cloud model makes sense on so many levels, completely removing the issue of platform compatibility by potentially turning every device that can access the cloud into a gaming client. The rendering power of AMD GPU compute accelerators is phenomenal, and I believe it delivers the compute density and performance needed to make the OTOY business model a success.”

The other big difference between the AMD and NVIDIA GPU accelerator offerings is the underlying software framework. After a fling with the Brook+ GPU computing language, AMD is now focused on pushing the OpenCL open standard (and DirectX) for all its GPU computing offerings. OpenCL seems like a particularly nice fit for AMD, since it can be applied to both CPU and GPU parallel computing codes, thus will dovetail nicely with the company’s heterogeneous Fusion processors.

NVIDIA also supports OpenCL, and publicly maintains an agnostic position with regard to software environments. But the company’s GPU computing platforms have mostly relied on its home-grown CUDA programming environment, which got a two and half year jump on the OpenCL standard. As a result, the CUDA tools and compiler have managed to attract an extensive ecosystem of partners. High-level language implementations, debuggers, libraries, integrated development environments, university courses, and consulting services have grown up around CUDA over the last four years. Whether OpenCL becomes a force in HPC application development remains an open question, but NVIDIA could live with either a CUDA-based or OpenCL-based ecosystem, while AMD has bet almost everything on the open standard.

A number of OEMs have already announced plans to incorporate the new FireStreams in their workstations and servers. For the time being, these include Supermicro, AMAX and One Stop Systems, but more system vendors are expected to add the AMD GPU option in the near future. The lower power, single-slot 9350 may be especially attractive for smaller systems with only limited power envelopes and PCIe interfaces. The new FireStream boards are slated for general availability in Q3 2010, at which point systems will begin shipping.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurr Read more…

By Doug Black

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia CEO Predicts AI ‘Cambrian Explosion’

May 25, 2017

The processing power and cloud access to developer tools used to train machine-learning models are making artificial intelligence ubiquitous across computing pl Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Exploring the Three Models of Remote Visualization

The explosion of data and advancement of digital technologies are dramatically changing the way many companies do business. With the help of high performance computing (HPC) solutions and data analytics platforms, manufacturers are developing products faster, healthcare providers are improving patient care, and energy companies are improving planning, exploration, and production. Read more…

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hedge Funds (with Supercomputing help) Rank First Among Investors

May 22, 2017

In case you didn’t know, The Quants Run Wall Street Now, or so says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. Quant-run hedge funds now control the largest Read more…

By John Russell

IBM, D-Wave Report Quantum Computing Advances

May 18, 2017

IBM said this week it has built and tested a pair of quantum computing processors, including a prototype of a commercial version. That progress follows an an Read more…

By George Leopold

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Offers Supercomputing as a Service, Targets Biotechs First

May 16, 2017

Leading supercomputer vendor Cray and datacenter/cloud provider the Markley Group today announced plans to jointly deliver supercomputing as a service. The init Read more…

By John Russell

HPE’s Memory-centric The Machine Coming into View, Opens ARMs to 3rd-party Developers

May 16, 2017

Announced three years ago, HPE’s The Machine is said to be the largest R&D program in the venerable company’s history, one that could be progressing tow Read more…

By Doug Black

What’s Up with Hyperion as It Transitions From IDC?

May 15, 2017

If you’re wondering what’s happening with Hyperion Research – formerly the IDC HPC group – apparently you are not alone, says Steve Conway, now senior V Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Launches Servers, Services, and Collaboration at GTC

May 10, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today launched a new liquid cooled GPU-driven Apollo platform based on SGI ICE architecture, a new collaboration with NVIDIA, a Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

Since our first formal product releases of OSPRay and OpenSWR libraries in 2016, CPU-based Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) has achieved wide-spread adopt Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Last week, Google reported that its custom ASIC Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) was 15-30x faster for inferencing workloads than Nvidia's K80 GPU (see our coverage Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a ne Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which w Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling Read more…

By Steve Campbell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Eng Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

As China continues to prove its supercomputing mettle via the Top500 list and the forward march of its ambitious plans to stand up an exascale machine by 2020, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu's Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural networ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of "quantum supremacy," researchers are stretching the limits of today's most advance Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" process Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This