NVIDIA ARMs Itself for Heterogeneous Computing Future

By Michael Feldman

January 6, 2011

Well NVIDIA waited exactly five days into the new year to announce a major new direction for its product roadmap. On Wednesday, the GPU-maker — and soon to be CPU-maker — revealed its plans to build heterogeneous processors, which will encompass high performance ARM CPU cores alongside GPU cores. The strategy parallel’s AMD’s Fusion architectural approach that marries x86 CPUs with ATI GPUs on-chip.

The upcoming NVIDIA processors, developed under the codename “Project Denver,” will span NVIDIA’s non-mobile product line, powering personal computers, workstations, servers and supercomputers. The announcement was made by company CEO Jen-Hsun Huang at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Huang called the news “one of the most strategic announcements we have ever made at NVIDIA.” And that might be an understatement.

NVIDIA already uses ARM cores on its Tegra line of processors for mobile computing platforms. That SoC design integrates a 32-bit ARM CPU alongside its GPU cores to power handheld devices such as smartphones, personal digital assistants and tablets. (The company also announced its Tegra 2 generation of processors this week at CES.) With the upcoming Project Denver processors, this heterogeneous platform will be extended across the rest of NVIDIA’s product lines, up to and including the Tesla HPC offerings.

As part of this strategy, the company has obtained rights to develop its own NVIDIA-designed high performance CPU cores using ARM’s future processor architecture. Presumably this will be based on a future 64-bit implementation of the ARM ISA, given that 64-bit computing is the accepted standard outside of the mobile space.

According to the HPC luminary Jack Dongarra, NVIDIA’s decision to marry ARM with GPUs makes sense. “They couldn’t license the X86 architecture and needed a CPU platform for their move to more general computing, integrating both CPU- and GPU-based computing.” he said. “ARM is a logical choice, giving NVIDIA an opportunity to move in both the low power direction and up to high performance computing.”

The overarching rationale here is essentially the same as AMD’s: to glue CPU and GPU logic together on the same chip so as to take advantage of the sequential and parallel processing capabilities, respectively, of the two architectures. The proximity of both logic engines to main memory and on-chip resources makes for a much more efficient computing environment. Integration also affords major power efficiency advantages, something that is absolutely critical in both the handheld space and now the datacenter. In particular, as supercomputers move from petascale to exascale, power constraints will force system builders to abandon monolithic x86-based systems, a process that has already begun with the latest generation of GPGPU-equipped supercomputers.

Each of NVIDIA product lines (Tegra, Quadro, GeForce, and Tesla) have their own roadmaps on how the ARM CPU will be folded in. For the Tesla line, ARM integration will take place on the upcoming “Maxwell” generation, according to Andy Keane, general manager of NVIDIA’s Tesla business. The Maxwell architecture is scheduled to be introduced in 2013, following the “Kepler” GPUs that due to be unveiled later this year.

By moving their entire portfolio to a CPU-GPU architecture, NVIDIA is looking to leverage their R&D costs across all product segments, from handhelds to PCs to supercomputers — in the same way Intel and AMD do with their x86-based chips. In fact, it’s the same business model NVIDIA already employs with their own CUDA GPU architecture.

“The technologies for the future have to have some basis in the volume market,” Keane told HPCwire. “It has to have some reason to exist other than the relatively small volume of the HPC business. That’s why this makes sense.”

The wildcard here is ARM. For this to work, NVIDIA needs to create that volume market in Project Denver clients and servers. For decades, the x86 CPU has been the standard-bearer for non-mobile computing, and this new approach is a direct challenge to that status quo. In announcing the new architecture, Huang pointed out the ARM shipments already far outstrip x86 volume, and, thanks to the rise of mobile computing, that gap is expected to increase substantially over the next four years.

As a result, there are a wealth of existing compiler and other software development tools for ARM platforms. Conveniently, support for Linux (and now Windows) is also in place. “What we have to do for the Tesla business, like we have done currently with the GPU, is to make sure that the [ARM] ecosystem is adapted correctly for HPC,” said Keane.

ARM’s disadvantage is that the architecture’s footprint is currently non-existent in the PC and server arena. Attracting OEMs and system integrators to build non-x86 platforms will certainly be a hurtle for the GPU-maker. However, with the new emphasis on power, especially in the datacenter, the RISC-architected ARM has some real advantages. Combined with a mature software stack and backed by NVIDIA, ARMed GPUs have the potential to upset many segments of x86-dominated computing.

NVIDIA’s new path puts it in much more direct competition with Intel and AMD, who are now all vying for the same market segments, and who will soon have little if any reliance on each other’s chips. With Project Denver processors now gearing up to go head-to-head against Intel MIC/integrated graphics and AMD Fusion chips, this young decade just got a lot more interesting.

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!

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’s introduction of an ARM-based system (XC-50) last November. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) in Los Angeles. The Read more…

By Staff

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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