Inside NVIDIA - The Santa Clara Tour

NVIDIA's new campus in Santa Clara, CA is impressive to say the least but at the same time, exactly what you'd expect from the leader in the graphics world.

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- One of NVIDIA's buildings in Santa Clara

We started off our tour revisiting NVIDIA's server farms, a site we had seen one year ago when we first walked around the new buildings. These server farms are used mostly for simulation of hardware (flip back a couple of pages to get an understanding of how) and thus the hardware demands are very high; you need a lot of memory and a lot of processing power.

NVIDIA found themselves in an interesting situation where they had no idea which platform would end up being the fastest yet most economical solution for their hardware simulation applications; NVIDIA's solution was to essentially, buy one of everything. Thus we found everything from Sun boxes to Itaniums to Pentium 4s running in their racks; the hardware that performed the best, NVIDIA bought more of and what didn't work quite as well sat there alone.

A couple of IBM boxes were found while we rummaged through NVIDIA's racks
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One of the more impressive setups was this collection (above) of 11 Sun Microsystems SunFire 6800 racks; each one of these racks has 196GB of memory courtesy of the platform's 64-bit memory addressability and costs around $1M.

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The racks themselves are around 6 feet tall as you can tell by the below picture of our own Evan Lieb (AT Motherboard Editor) standing next to one:

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NVIDIA is currently evaluating migrating to racks of SunBlade systems as opposed to the larger SunFire 6800 setups and thus we found a couple of these boxes laying around:

NVIDIA would love to move away from these costly Sun boxes altogether and transition to a much more affordable x86-linux platform, but the problem is finding a 64-bit x86 solution. NVIDIA is currently evaluating Intel's Itanium for use in their farm but as far as their needs go, AMD's Opteron would be a gift from God. NVIDIA is eagerly awaiting the launch of Opteron so that their dreams may be fulfilled with an affordable x86 solution that offers 64-bit memory addressability; until then, they'll have to stick with these million-dollar sun systems.

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- Another Sun rack standing next to a million-dollar SunFire 6800

Inside ATI - Testing the Chip More Servers

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