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
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Yes that is quite disappointing, but the 3 million transistor count and ddr5 somewaht makes up for it, and the fact that we're told by the red roosters that even 153 bandwith is plenty or just a tiny bit shy, and with what it looks like the 384 bit ddr5 4000 or 4800 data GT300 will come in at 192 bandwith minimum, or more likely 240 bandwith, quite a lot higher than 153.6 for ati's 5870.
    So really, what should I believe now, 153 is really plenty except in a few rare instances, or what you say LOL @ Trolls should believe, that 192 or 240 is worse than 153 ?
    You might LOL @ TRolls, but from my view, you just made an awful fool of yourself.
    HINT: The ati 5870 is only 256bit, not 384, and not 512.

    Now, look in the mirror and LOL.
  • sigmatau - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    I know the ATI cards have 256 bit connections dumb ass. I'm just using your logic (or lack of it.) ATI has been able to outperform Nvidia cards with their 256 bit connections so your point about bandwidth is meaningless idiot.

    Now go pull that G295 out your ass, ok?
  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Golly, that ddr5 has nothing to do with bandwith, right, you stupid idiot ?
    Talk to me about the 4850, you lame, near brain dead, doofus. It's got ddr3 on it.
    See, that's the other problem for you idiotic true believers, NV is moving from 2248 data rate ram on up to 4800.

    But you're so able to keep more than one tiny thought in your stupid gourd at once, you "knew that".

    BTW, you're not doing what I'm doing, you're not capable of it.

    Now that sourpussed last little whine by you, the 295, beats everything ati has, making your simpleton statement A BIG FAT JOKE.
  • moltentofu - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    My god silicondoc you aren't really succeeding here. At what purpose? To convince people not to buy ati cards? You are such a complete, massive ahole it makes me want to go out and buy ati cards in bulk just to spite you.

    I'm guessing that if nvidia PR ever watched you rant your all-caps rants they would politely request that you stop associating yourself with their product.

    Go ahead everybody google "silicondoc" if you have a strong stomach. Talk about spreading yourself all over the tubes! This guy's fingerprint is unmistakeable. Looks like he got banned on the HondaSwap forums after 14 posts. Guess he sucks on every forum. Maybe anandtech could ban him?
  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    I think every one of you, that instead of actually leaving me alone, or responding with a counter argument to my points, every one of you that merely got logged in, and ripped away at me with an insult ought to be BANNED.
    That's what really should happen. I make my complaints and arguments on article and cards and companies, and the lies I see about all those, and most, but not all of you, have no response other than a pure trolling, insulting put down.

    Every single one of you that came in, and personally attacked me without posting a single comment about the article, YOU are the ones that need to be banned.

    Your collective whining is pure personal attack, and instead of commenting on the article, your love or hate for it, you texted up and did one single thing, let loose a rant against me. Just because you could, just because you felt apparently, "it was taking the high road"... which is as ignorant as the lies I've pointed out.
    Time for YOU PEOPLE to be banned.
    (minus those of course that actually made counterpoints, wether or not they insulted me or complained when they did - because AT LEAST they actually were discussing points, and contributing to the knowledge and opinion groupings.

    Like for instance Monkeypaw, who made a reply that wasn't a pure trolling hate filled diatribe like you just posted, having nothing to do with the article at all.

    Take a look in the mirror then consider yourself fella.
  • bobvodka - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    In which case I request that YOU are banned for calling ME a liar when I did nothing beyond reply telling you how, on launch day, I ordered a HD5870 and had it the next day.
  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Oh you're full of it again, you pretended your view is the world, and therefore lied your butt off, and in a smart aleck fashion, PERIOD, pretending everyone doesn't know a few trickled out, which if you had clue one, you'd KNOW I was the one who posted that very information on this site.
    Claiming anyting else, is plain stupid, smart alecky, and LYING.
    Just because drunken bob got a card, he claims, on the morning, it shhipped that day, he had it immediately, and has been enojying it ever since, the whole world is satisfied with the paper launch, that "does not exist in bob's drunken vodka world" where who knows what day it is anyeway.
    You know, you people are trash,and expecting anyone else to pretend you're not is asking for way too much.
  • shotage - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    SillyDuck - please tone it down. You're getting out of control again!
  • tamalero - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    hu.. you'r the one insulting every people who doesnt share your opinion with your "RED ROOSTERS" and other stuff...
    you're really special Mr. Doc, but in the sad way.
  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    What red roosters, there aren't any here I'm told. Just plain frank and honest people who tell the truth.
    So if I say red rooster, it cannot possibly mean anyone here, posting, lurking or otherwise, as I'm certain you absolutely know.
    ( not like coming down to your level takes any effort, there you are special, just for you, so you don't feeel so bad about yourself )

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now