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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  • Moricon - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Silicondoc you are a big GREEN C*OK lol it even rhymes!
  • Alberto - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    The GPGPU market is very little...doesn't make good revenue for a company. Moreover the sw development is HARD and expensive; this piece of silicon seems like a NVidia mistake: too big to manifacture for a graphic card, nice (on the paper) for a market of niche.
    In comparison Amd is working far better and Intel too with Larrabee.
    Hard times at the orizon for Nvidia, it has a monster with very low manufacturing yields, but nothing feasible for the consumer arena.
    A prediction ? AMD will have the lead of graphic cards in the next years.....
  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    The yields are fine, apparently you caught wind of the ati pr crew who was caught out lying.
    If not, you just made your standard idiot assumption, because the actual FACTS concerning the these tow latest 40nm chips is that ati yields have been very poor, and nvidias have been good.
    Nice try, but you're wrong.

    " Scalable Informatics has been selling NVidia Tesla (C1060) units as part of our Pegasus-GPU and Pegasus-GPU+Cell units. Several issues have arisen with Tesla availability and pricing.

    First issue: Tesla units are currently on a 4-8 week back order. We have no control over this, all other vendors have the exact same issues. NVidia is not shipping Tesla in any appreciable volumes.

    Our workaround: Until NVidia is able to ramp its volume to appropriate levels, Scalable Informatics will provide loaner GTX260 cards in place of the Tesla units. Once the Tesla units ship, we will exchange the GTX260 units for the Tesla units.

    Update: 1-September-2009

    Tesla C1060 units are now readily available for Pegasus and JackRabbit systems.

    " Scalable Informatics JackRabbit systems are available in deskside and rackmount configurations, starting at 8 TB (TeraByte) in size, with individual systems ranging from 8TB to 96TB, and storage clusters up to 62 PB (PetaByte), with most systems starting price under $1USD/GB."

    So, an 8TB system is 8 grand, 96TB 96 grand, and a 62 petabyte in the approaching one MILLION range.

    Yes, not much there. LOLOLOL
    POWER SAVINGS replacing massive cpu computers
    The BNP Paribas (finance) study showed a $250,000 500 core cluster (37.5 kW) replaced with a 2 S1070 Tesla cluster at a cost of $24,000 and using only 2.8 kW. A study with oil and gas company Hess showed an $8M 2000-socket system (1.2Mw) being replaced by a 32 S1070 cluster for $400,000 and using only 45 kW in 31x less space. If you are running a CUDA-enabled application, or have access to the source code (you’ll need that to take advantage of the GPUs), you can clearly get significant performance gains for certain applications.
    about 4 TFLOPS of peak from four C1060 cards (or 3 C1060 and a Quadro) and plugs into a standard wall outlet. Word from some of those selling this system is that sales have been mostly in the academic space and a little slower than expected, possibly due to the initially high ($10k+) price point. Prices have started to come down, however, and that might help sales. You can buy these today from vendors like Dell, Colfax, AMAX, Microway, and Penguin (for a partial list see NVIDIA’s PS product page).

    And, of course you predict amd will have the lead in videocards the next few years. LOL
  • thebeastie - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Personally I think NVidia has made the best bet it can make with supporting more Telsa style stuff, and in general just building a bigger madder GPU.

    The fact is that there aren't many good PC games around, I would say NVidia made some good sales out of Crysis by it self, people building a new PC with that game in mind having a very large weight on GPU choice.

    But it is just not enough. L4D 2 is the next big title but being on the Vavle engine everyone know you will get 100fps on a GTX 275.
    The other twist is that Steam has probably been one of the best things for gaming on the PC it just makes things 10 times easier.

    Manually patching games etc is a killer for all but those who are gaming enthusiasts.
  • Dante80 - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    GT300 looks like a revolutionary product as far as HPC and GPU Computing are concerned. Happy times ahead, for professionals and scientists at least...

    Regarding the 3d gaming market though, things are not as optimistic. GT300 performance is rather irrelevant, due to the fact that nvidia currently does not have a speedy answer for the discrete, budget, mainstream and lower performance segments. Price projections aside, the GT300 will get the performance crown, and act as a marketing boost for the rest of the product line. Customers in the higher performance and enthusiast markets that have brand loyalty towards the greens are locked anyway. And yes, thats still irrelevant.

    Remember ppl, the profit and bulk in the market is in a price segment nvidia does not even try to address currently. We can only hope that the greens can get sth more than GT200 rebranding/respins out for the lower market segments. Fast. Ideally, the new architecture should be able to be downscaled easily. Lets hope for that, or its definitely rough times ahead for nvidia. Especially if you look closely at the 5850 performance per $ ratio, as well as the juniper projections. And add in the economy crisis, shifting consumer focus, the difference of performance needed by sotware and performance given by the hw, the locking of TFT resolutions and heat/power consumption concerns.

    With AMD getting out of the warehouses the whole 5XXX family in under 6months (I think thats a first for the GPU industry, I might be wrong though), the greens are in a rather tight spot atm. GT200 respins wont save the round, GT300 @500$++ wont save the round, and tesla wont certainly save the round (just look at sales and profit in the last years concerning the HPC-GPUCU segments).

    Lets hope for the best, its in our interest as consumers anyway..
  • blindbox - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    I'm sorry, but I couldn't resist.

    The Adventures of SiliconDoc.

    NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250: A Rebadged 9800 GTX+

    ATI Radeon HD 4890 vs. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275

    AMD's Radeon HD 5870: Bringing About the Next Generation Of GPUs

    The Radeon HD 4870 1GB: The Card to Get

    Overclocking Extravaganza: GTX 275's Complex Characteristics

    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295: Leading the Pack

    Faster Graphics For Lower Prices: ATI Radeon HD 4770

    Of course, check the comments.

    I couldn't find his comments in the 4870x2 review, nor the pre-DX10 days.
  • tamalero - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    this guy is such a epic trainwreck....
    I actually wonder if this guy is the ANGRY GERMAN KID on disguise ( check the video on youtube lol )
  • Docket - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Yep SiliconDoc has been making same nonsense noise elsewhere as well and been banned at least from one other site (google silicondocs):

    Here extract from bit-tech staff:
    OK time for you to go, you contribute nothing to the community other than trolling, bye bye.

    I'm leaving all your posts here for evidence that you're a complete lunatic, but I'm glad you realise that you do need help. It's the first step.

    I recommend checking out Nvidia forums and posting there - you'll feel more at home.

    S/He is obviously retarded person. I mean initially it was "fun" to read but now I'm just so bored with this s*it and it is actually interfering while trying to read comments from other readers. Maybe that is the whole point of the noise; to side track any meaningful conversation.

    I vote silicondoc to banned from this site (or give me an ability to filter all the post from and related to this user)... anyone else?

  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    It seems to me, you wish to remain absolutely blind with your fuming hatred and emotional issues, let's see WHAT was supposedly said at your link:

    " Originally Posted by wuyanxu
    nVidia is trying very hard to NOT loose this round, they've priced this too aggressively, surely there's some cooperate law on this? "
    Here we see the brain deranged red rooster, who has been decieved by the likes of you know who, for so long, that a low priced Nvidia card that beats the ati card, must be "illegally priced", according to the little red communist overseas.
    I suppose pointing that out in a fashion you and your glorious roosters don't like, is plenty reason for you to shriek "contributes nothing" and "let's ban him!"
    Well, fire up your glowing red torches, and I will gladly continue to show what fools red roosters can be, and often are.
    I'm so happy you linked some silicondoc post on some other forum, and we had the chance to see the deranged red rooster screech that a low priced Nvidia GTX275 is illegal.
    Good for you, you're such a big help here.
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    would be nice, I was wondering when I saw this article how it could have 140 comments already, forgetting he was sure to come trolling. I've stopped reading each comment thread after he got involved, since any chance of reliable information coning out has ceased.

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