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 - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    Yeah, of course, 3 million T core, and it doesn't need much bandiwth, and it won't be used, perhaps, or probably, because the GPU designers haven't a clue, and of course, you do.
    Another amazing clown with a red nose. You people really should stop typing stupid stuff like that.
  • Calin - Sunday, October 4, 2009 - link

    There was no performance improvement from increasing the bandwidth of the Athlon64 processors due to the move to DDR2 memory (a theoretical doubling of performance, with about one and a half more measured bandwidth in the first generation of the processor).

    I might not have a clue, but do you?
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Very interesting of course, and so with your theory, it could also be LOWER, with slower ddr5, but the fact REMAINS, 240 has ALREADY BEEN LEAKED.
    so we know what it is, and Anand KNOWS IT'S MORE, BUT NOT DOUBLE AND SAYS SO !
  • dragunover - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    I disregarded anything you said before and after that.
  • SiliconDoc - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    I'm certain you attempted it, as you no doubt love to wallow in blissful ignorance and denial just by mere unchangeable habit.
    But having read it, you have nowhere to go. Your mind is already irreparably altered. Congratulations.
  • jonGhast - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    True, you seem to be a whole new level of stupid.
  • mapesdhs - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I have a theory on that one: faulty keyboard. Every time he hits Shift
    to get upper case, his keyboard is zapping out brain cells with EMF bursts. :D

    Best to just ignore & not reply IMO.


  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Well you can't ignore the discussion, and as far as that goes, you want everyone else to do your will, as you beg for it, with your empty advice, which is by the way, all you provided in the last thread.
    So you quack around telling others not to participate. That's your whole gig mary.

    I find the stupidity level amazing, as most of you can only spew in and beg eachother not to comment, and by the quality of the comments that actually try a counter, I certainly cannot blame you, for begging others to surrender ahead of time.

    You notice how many new names are here ? lol
    It's clear who and what it is that responds, and what level of conduct they are all about.

    Now let's see the Sybillic mapes sign off on his/her own glorious advice, which she/he failed to follow already.
  • Silverel - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Hey buddy. Take a pill and relax.

    Your product isn't on the market yet. There's no recommendation to be heeded. It doesn't matter how fast it is, you can't have one. No one can. If someone wants to get their next-gen performance on now, ATI is what you'll buy.

    It's okay though. Not everyone is going to run out and grab an ATI card. There's plenty of people that will wait for hell to freeze over for nVidia to release a new card. Personally, I'll take the Q1 2010 release date as semi-fact, but hell freezing over is my fallback date.

    So feel free to continue ranting like you've run out of meds. Insult anyone who has made a comment contrary to your own. It's not really doing you any favors, but that's okay. I'm sure it's having an effect on the opinions of people sitting on the fence. Ah, and just to dig the finger in the wound, you can consider me an ATI shill, just for good measure.

  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Gosh you';re a sweetheart, too, and wrong ! WRONG ! WRONG !

    the red bloviator> " . If someone wants to get their next-gen performance on now, ATI is what you'll buy. "

    Gee, did you lose it that easily, was your heart beating so hard, were you sweaty, and upset, and out of control, and decided it was great to tell me to settle down, when your brain was on FART ?

    Please see the GTX295 that BEATS the 5870. The 5870 is PRIOR GEN performance - as ati's own 4870x2/or CF is equal.

    Golly, what a deal, another red rooster massive ruse.

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