A Different Sort of Launch

Fermi will support DirectX 11 and NVIDIA believes it'll be faster than the Radeon HD 5870 in 3D games. With 3 billion transistors, it had better be. But that's the extent of what NVIDIA is willing to talk about with regards to Fermi as a gaming GPU. Sorry folks, today's launch is targeted entirely at Tesla.

A GeForce GTX 280 with 4GB of memory is the foundation for the Tesla C1060 cards

Tesla is NVIDIA's High Performance Computing (HPC) business. NVIDIA takes its consumer GPUs, equips them with a ton of memory, and sells them in personal or datacenter supercomputers called Tesla supercomputers or computing clusters. If you have an application that can run well on a GPU, the upside is tremendous.

Four of those C1060 cards in a 1U chassis make the Tesla S1070. PCIe connects the S1070 to the host server.

NVIDIA loves to cite examples of where algorithms ported to GPUs work so much better than CPUs. One such example is a seismic processing application that HESS found ran very well on NVIDIA GPUs. It migrated a cluster of 2000 servers to 32 Tesla S1070s, bringing total costs down from $8M to $400K, and total power from 1200kW down to 45kW.

HESS Seismic Processing Example Tesla CPU
Performance 1 1
# of Machines 32 Tesla S1070s 2000 x86 servers
Total Cost ~$400K ~$8M
Total Power 45kW 1200kW


Obviously this doesn't include the servers needed to drive the Teslas, but presumably that's not a significant cost. Either way the potential is there, it's just a matter of how many similar applications exist in the world.

According to NVIDIA, there are many more cases like this in the market. The table below shows what NVIDIA believes is the total available market in the next 18 months for these various HPC segments:

Processor Seismic Supercomputing Universities Defence Finance
GPU TAM $300M $200M $150M $250M $230M


These figures were calculated by looking at the algorithms used in each segment, the number of Hess-like Tesla installations that can be done, and the current budget for non-GPU based computing in those markets. If NVIDIA met its goals here, the Tesla business could be bigger than the GeForce one. There's just one problem:

As you'll soon see, many of the architectural features of Fermi are targeted specifically for Tesla markets. The same could be said about GT200, albeit to a lesser degree. Yet Tesla accounted for less than 1.3% of NVIDIA's total revenue last quarter.

Given these numbers it looks like NVIDIA is building GPUs for a world that doesn't exist. NVIDIA doesn't agree.

The Evolution of GPU Computing

When matched with the right algorithms and programming efforts, GPU computing can provide some real speedups. Much of Fermi's architecture is designed to improve performance in these HPC and other GPU compute applications.

Ever since G80, NVIDIA has been on this path to bring GPU computing to reality. I rarely get the opportunity to get a non-marketing answer out of NVIDIA, but in talking to Jonah Alben (VP of GPU Engineering) I had an unusually frank discussion.

From the outside, G80 looks to be a GPU architected for compute. Internally, NVIDIA viewed it as an opportunistic way to enable more general purpose computing on its GPUs. The transition to a unified shader architecture gave NVIDIA the chance to, relatively easily, turn G80 into more than just a GPU. NVIDIA viewed GPU computing as a future strength for the company, so G80 led a dual life. Awesome graphics chip by day, the foundation for CUDA by night.

Remember that G80 was hashed out back in 2002 - 2003. NVIDIA had some ideas of where it wanted to take GPU computing, but it wasn't until G80 hit that customers started providing feedback that ultimately shaped the way GT200 and Fermi turned out.

One key example was support for double precision floating point. The feature wasn't added until GT200 and even then, it was only added based on computing customer feedback from G80. Fermi kicks double precision performance up another notch as it now executes FP64 ops at half of its FP32 rate (more on this later).

While G80 and GT200 were still primarily graphics chips, NVIDIA views Fermi as a processor that makes compute just as serious as graphics. NVIDIA believes it's on a different course, at least for the short term, than AMD. And you'll see this in many of the architectural features of Fermi.

Index Architecting Fermi: More Than 2x GT200
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  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Well that's quite a compliment, thank you.

    Since you pretend to be a Kingslayer, I have to warn you, you have failed.
    I am King, as you said, and in this case, your dullard's, idiotic attempt at another red raging rooster "silence job", has utterly failed.

    Now, did you see that awesome closeup of TESLA ? You think that's carbon fiber at the bracket end ? Sure looks like it.
    I wonder why ati only has like "red" "red" "red" "red" and "red" cards, don't you ?
    I mean I never really thought about it before, but it IS LAME. It's like another cheapo low rent cost savings QUACK from the dollar undenominated lesser queendom of corner cutting, ati.
    Gee, thank you for the added inspiration, as you well have noticed, the awful realities never mentioned keep coming to light.
    At least one of us is actually thinking about videocards.
    Not like you'll ever change that trend, so the King's Declaration is: EPIC FAIL !
  • tamalero - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    hu.. my 3870 from visiontek had black pbc :|
  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Well that's actually kinda cool, but was the rest of it covered in that sick ati red ? That card is a heat monster with it's tiny core, so we know it was COVERED in fannage and plastic, unless it was a supercheap single slot that just blasted it into the case.
    BTW, in order to comment you've exposed another notch in your red fannage purchase history.
  • tamalero - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    wait.. WHAT? o_O
    you dont make any sense.
  • silverblue - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    There's an nVidia card sat on a desk at work. It's got a red PCB.
  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Yes, once again you made my point for me, and being so ignorant you failed to notice ! I mean do you guys do this on purpos, or are you just that stupid ?
    If you have a red nvidia card on the desk at work, that shows nvidia is flexible in color schemes, unlike 'red 'red' red red red red red rooster cards !
    You do realize you made an immense BLUNDER now, don't you ?
    You thought I meant the color RED was awful.
    Man you people just don't have sense above a tomato.
  • silverblue - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    Just because the reference cards are red, doesn't mean the manufacturers have to make them so.

    In fact, ASUS released a 4890 with a black PCB.

    You've now descended from arguing about the length of the card and the power of its GPU to the colour of the PCB. Considering it's under a damned cooling solution, how does this matter?
  • engineer1 - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Anand hates Nvidia because they competed against his former lover AMD, and compete against his current lover Intel. Anand you are such a rotten spoiled brat. Since this website fell into your lap you could at least make an effort to act responsibly. Have you EVER held a job working for someone else? I doubt it. And you should ban the other spoiled brats who apparently work for Microsoft and spend about 8 hours a day dominating everything posted on Dailytech such as TheIdiotNickDanger and Evil666. Bunch of Cretians.
  • gx80050 - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    Die painfully okay? Prefearbly by getting crushed to death in a
    garbage compactor, by getting your face cut to ribbons with a
    pocketknife, your head cracked open with a baseball bat, your stomach
    sliced open and your entrails spilled out, and your eyeballs ripped
    out of their sockets. Fucking bitch

    I would love to kick you hard in the face, breaking it. Then I'd cut
    your stomach open with a chainsaw, exposing your intestines. Then I'd
    cut your windpipe in two with a boxcutter.
    Hopefully you'll get what's coming to you. Fucking bitch

    I really hope that you get curb-stomped. It'd be hilarious to see you
    begging for help, and then someone stomps on the back of your head,
    leaving you to die in horrible, agonizing pain. Faggot

    Shut the fuck up f aggot, before you get your face bashed in and cut
    to ribbons, and your throat slit.

  • papapapapapapapababy - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    lol, look at the finger, is this shoped or what! there is no card FAKE!


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