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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  • sandwiches - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Just created an account to say that I've never seen this kind of sycophantic, schizophrenic blathering as Silicondoc. I have been an Nvidia user for the past 7 years or so (simply out of habit) and before that a Voodoo user and I cannot even begin to relate to this buffoon.

    Oh and to incense him even more, I'd like to add that I bought a HD5870 from newegg a couple nights ago since I needed to upgrade my old 8800 GTS card, NOW... not in a few months or next year. Now. Seeing as how the HD 5870 is the fastest for my buck, I went with that. Forget treating brands like religions. Get whatever's good and you can afford and forget brands. The end.
  • SiliconDoc - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    LOL - another lifelong nobody who hasdn't a clue and was a green goblin by habit self reported, made another account, and came in just to "incense" "the debater".
    Really, you couldn't have done a better job of calling yourself a piece of trash.
    Congratulations for that.
    You admitted your goal was trolling and fanning the flames.
    That was your goal, and so bright you are, that "sandwiches" came to mind as your name, a complimentary imitation, indicating you hoped to be equal to "Silicon" and decided to take a "tech part" styled name, or, perhaps as likely, it was haphazard chance cause buckey was hungry when he got here, and that's all he could think of.
    I think you're another pile of stupid with the C and below crowd, basically.
    So, that sort of explains your purchase, doesn't it ?
    Yes, you can't possibly relate, you need more MHZ a lot bigger powr supply "sandwiches".
  • CptTripps - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    Reading your comments makes me think you are about 12 and in need of serious evaluation. I have never seen someone so out of control on Anand for 30+ pages. Seriously, get your brain checked out, there is some sort of imbalance going on when everyone in the whole world is a liar except you, the only beacon of truth.
  • sandwiches - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link


    This has to be an online persona for you, Brian. Are you seriously like this in real life?
  • Voo - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    We really need a "ignore this idiot" button :/

    Anyways, is there any reason why this has to be a "one size fits them all" chip? I mean according to the article there's a lot of stuff in it, which only a minority of gamers would ever need (ECC memory? That's more expensive than normal memory and usually has a performance impact).

    I mean there's already a workstation chip, why not a third one for GPU computing?
  • neomocos - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    You know when someone says you are drunk/stupid/drugged/crazy/etc... then you might question him but when 2 or 3 people say it then it`s most than probably true but when all the people at anand say it then SiliconDoc should just stfu, go right now and buy an ati 5870 and smash it on the ground and maby he will feel better and let us be.

    I vote for ban also :) and i donate 10$ for the 5870 we anand users will give him as a present for christmas.Happy new red year Silicon...
  • andrihb - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    I'm excited about this but I wish it was ready sooner. It looks like we'll have to wait 2-3 months for benchmarks, right?

    I hope it'll blow 5870 away because that's what is best for us, the consumers. We'll have an even faster GPU available to us which is all that really matters.

    I've noticed that a person here has been criticizing this article for belittling the fact that nVidia's upcoming GPU is likely going to have a vastly suerior memory bandwidth to ATI's current flagship. Anand gave us the very limited data that exists at the moment and left most of the speculation to us. He doesn't emphasize that Fermi (which won't even be available for months) has far more bandwidth than ATI's current flagship. I contend that most people already suspected as much.
    The vastly superior memmory bandwidth suggests that nVidia might just have a 5870 killer up it's sleeve. See what I just did there? This is called engaging in speculation. Anand could have done more of that, I agree, but saying that this is proof of Anand's supposed bias towards ATI? That is totally unreasonable.

    Hey, Doc, do you want to see a real life, batshit crazy, foaming at the mouth fanboy? All you need is a mirror.
  • JonnyDough - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    "Jonah did step in to clarify. He believes that AMD's strategy simply boils down to targeting a different price point. He believes that the correct answer isn't to target a lower price point first, but rather build big chips efficiently. And build them so that you can scale to different sizes/configurations without having to redo a bunch of stuff. Putting on his marketing hat for a bit, Jonah said that NVIDIA is actively making investments in that direction. Perhaps Fermi will be different and it'll scale down to $199 and $299 price points with little effort? It seems doubtful, but we'll find out next year."


    So nVidia is going to make this for Tesla. That's great that they're innovating but you mentioned that those sales are only a small percentage. AMD went from competing strongly in the CPU market to dominating the GPU market. Good move. But if there's no existing market for the GPGPU...do you really want to be switching gears and trying to create one? Hmm. Crazy!
  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Admin: You've overstayed your welcome, goodbye.
    I'm not sure where you got your red rooster lies information. AMD/ati has NO DOMINATION in the GPU market.
    One moment please to blow away your fantasy...
    Just in case you're ready to scream I cooked up a pure grteen biased link, check back a few pages and you'll see the liar who claimed ati is now profitable and holding up AMD because of it provided the REAL empty rhetoric fanboy link http://arstechnica.com/hardware/news/2009/07/intel...">http://arstechnica.com/hardware/news/20...-graphic...
    which states
    " The actual numbers that JPR gives are worth looking at,
    which show INTEL dominates the GPU market !
    Wow, what a surprise for you. I've just expanded your world, to something called "honest".
    INTEL 50.30%
    NVIDIA 28.74%
    AMD 18.13%
    others below 1% each.
    Gee, now you know who dominates, and for our discussions here, who is IN LAST PLACE! AND THAT WOULD BE ATI THE LAST PLACE LOSER!
    Now, I wouldn't mind something like ati is competitive, but that DOMINATES thing says it's #1, and ati is :

    ************* ATI IS IN LAST PLACE ! LAST PLACE! **************

    Now please whine about the 3 listed at the link less than 1% each, so you can "pump up ati" by claiming "it's not last, which of course I would welcome, since it's much better than lying and claiming it's number one.
    I suspect all you crying ban babies are ready to claim to have found absolutely zero information or contributioon in this post.
  • tamalero - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    huge difference between INTEGRATED GRAPHIC SEGMENT, wich is almost every laptop there and a lot of business computers.
    versus the DISCRETE MARKET, wich is the GAMING section... where AMD-ATI and NVIDIA are 100%.
    get your facts and see a doctor, your delusional attitude is getting annoying.

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