CEO Jen-Hsun Huang Sells Windows RT... A Little Bit.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Processors, Shows and Expos | March 20, 2013 - 06:26 PM |
Tagged: windows rt, nvidia, GTC 2013

NVIDIA develops processors, but without an x86 license they are only able to power ARM-based operating systems. When it comes to Windows, that means Windows Phone or Windows RT. The latter segment of the market has disappointing sales according to multiple OEMs, which Microsoft blames them for, but the jolly green GPU company is not crying doomsday.

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NVIDIA just skimming the Surface RT, they hope.

As reported by The Verge, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang was optimistic that Microsoft would eventually let Windows RT blossom. He noted how Microsoft very often "gets it right" at some point when they push an initiative. And it is true, Microsoft has a history of turning around perceived disasters across a variety of devices.

They also have a history of, as they call it, "knifing the baby."

I think there is a very real fear for some that Microsoft could consider Intel's latest offerings as good enough to stop pursuing ARM. Of course, the more the pursue ARM, the more their business model will rely upon the-interface-formerly-known-as-Metro and likely all of its certification politics. As such, I think it is safe to say that I am watching the industry teeter on a fence with a bear on one side and a pack of rabid dogs on the other. On the one hand, Microsoft jumping back to Intel would allow them to perpetuate the desktop and all of the openness it provides. On the other hand, even if they stick with Intel they likely will just kill the desktop anyway, for the sake of user confusion and the security benefits of cert. We might just have less processor manufacturers when they do that.

So it could be that NVIDIA is confident that Microsoft will push Windows RT, or it could be that NVIDIA is pushing Microsoft to continue to develop Windows RT. Frankly, I do not know which would be better... or more accurately, worse.

Source: The Verge

GTC 2013: Pedraforca Is A Power Efficient ARM + GPU Cluster For Homogeneous (GPU) Workloads

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 20, 2013 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: tesla, tegra 3, supercomputer, pedraforca, nvidia, GTC 2013, GTC, graphics cards, data centers

There is a lot of talk about heterogeneous computing at GTC, in the sense of adding graphics cards to servers. If you have HPC workloads that can benefit from GPU parallelism, adding GPUs gives you computing performance in less physical space, and using less power, than a CPU only cluster (for equivalent TFLOPS).

However, there was a session at GTC that actually took things to the opposite extreme. Instead of a CPU only cluster or a mixed cluster, Alex Ramirez (leader of Heterogeneous Architectures Group at Barcelona Supercomputing Center) is proposing a homogeneous GPU cluster called Pedraforca.
Pedraforca V2 combines NVIDIA Tesla GPUs with low power ARM processors. Each node is comprised of the following components:

  • 1 x Mini-ITX carrier board
  • 1 x Q7 module (which hosts the ARM SoC and memory)
    • Current config is one Tegra 3 @ 1.3GHz and 2GB DDR2
  • 1 x NVIDIA Tesla K20 accelerator card (1170 GFLOPS)
  • 1 x InfiniBand 40Gb/s card (via Mellanox ConnectX-3 slot)
  • 1 x 2.5" SSD (SATA 3 MLC, 250GB)

The ARM processor is used solely for booting the system and facilitating GPU communication between nodes. It is not intended to be used for computing. According to Dr. Ramirez, in situations where running code on a CPU would be faster, it would be best to have a small number of Intel Xeon powered nodes to do the CPU-favorable computing, and then offload the parallel workloads to the GPU cluster over the InfiniBand connection (though this is less than ideal, Pedraforca would be most-efficient with data-sets that can be processed solely on the Tesla cards).

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While Pedraforca is not necessarily locked to NVIDIA's Tegra hardware, it is currently the only SoC that meets their needs. The system requires the ARM chip to have PCI-E support. The Tegra 3 SoC has four PCI-E lanes, so the carrier board is using two PLX chips to allow the Tesla and InfiniBand cards to both be connected.

The researcher stated that he is also looking forward to using NVIDIA's upcoming Logan processor in the Pedraforca cluster. It will reportedly be possible to upgrade existing Pedraforca clusters with the new chips by replacing the existing (Tegra 3) Q7 module with one that has the Logan SoC when it is released.

Pedraforca V2 has an initial cluster size of 64 nodes. While the speaker was reluctant to provide TFLOPS performance numbers, as it would depend on the workload, with 64 Telsa K20 cards, it should provide respectable performance. The intent of the cluster is to save power costs by using a low power CPU. If your sever kernel and applications can run on GPUs alone, there are noticeable power savings to be had by switching from a ~100W Intel Xeon chip to a lower-power (approximately 2-3W) Tegra 3 processor. If you have a kernel that needs to run on a CPU, it is recommended to run the OS on an Intel server and transfer just the GPU work to the Pedraforca cluster. Each Pedraforca node is reportedly under 300W, with the Tesla card being the majority of that figure. Despite the limitations, and niche nature of the workloads and software necessary to get the full power-saving benefits, Pedraforca is certainly an interesting take on a homogeneous server cluster!

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In another session relating to the path to exascale computing, power use in data centers was listed as one of the biggest hurdles to getting to Exaflop-levels of performance, and while Pedraforca is not the answer to Exascale, it should at least be a useful learning experience at wringing the most parallelism out of code and pushing GPGPU to the limits. And that research will help other clusters use the GPUs more efficiently as researchers explore the future of computing.

The Pedraforca project built upon research conducted on Tibidabo, a multi-core ARM CPU cluster, and CARMA (CUDA on ARM development kit) which is a Tegra SoC paired with an NVIDIA Quadro card. The two slides below show CARMA benchmarks and a Tibidabo cluster (click on image for larger version).

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more GTC 2013 coverage!

 

GTC 2013: TYAN Launches New HPC Servers Powered by Kepler-based Tesla Cards

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 19, 2013 - 06:52 PM |
Tagged: GTC 2013, tyan, HPC, servers, tesla, kepler, nvidia

Server platform manufacturer TYAN is showing off several of its latest servers aimed at the high performance computing (HPC) market. The new servers range in size from 2U to 4U chassis and hold up to 8 Kepler-based Tesla accelerator cards. The new product lineup consists of two motherboards and three bare-bones systems. The S7055 and S7056 are the motherboards while the FT77-B7059, TA77-B7061, and FT48-B7055.

FT48_B7055_3D_2_Rev2_S.jpg

The TA77-B7061 is the smallest system, with support for two Intel Xeon E5-2600 processors and four Kepler-based Tesla accelerator cards. The FT48-B7055 has si7056 specifications but is housed in a 4U chassis. Finally, the FT77-B7059 is a 4U system with support for two Intel Xeon E5-2600 processors, and up to eight Tesla accelerator cards. The S7055 supports a maximum of 4 GPUs while the S7056 can support two Tesla cards, though these are bare boards so you will have to supply your own cards, processors, and RAM (of course).

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According to TYAN, the new Kepler-based HPC systems will be available in Q2 2013, though there is no word on pricing yet.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for further GTC 2013 Coverage!

GTC 2013: Jen-Hsun Huang Takes the Stage to Discuss NVIDIA's Future, New Hardware

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 19, 2013 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: unified virtual memory, ray tracing, nvidia, GTC 2013, grid vca, grid, graphics cards

Today, NVIDIA's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang stepped on stage to present the GTC keynote. In the presentation (which was live streamed on the GTC website and archived here.), NVIDIA discussed five major points, looking back over 2013 and into the future of its mobile and professional products. In addition to the product roadmap, NVIDIA discussed the state of computer graphics and GPGPU software. Remote graphics and GPU virtualization was also on tap. Finally, towards the end of the Keynote, the company revealed its first appliance with the NVIDIA GRID VCA. The culmination of NVIDIA's GRID and GPU virtualization technology, the VCA is a device that hosts up to 16 virtual machines which each can tap into one of 16 Kepler-based graphics processors (8 cards, 16 GPUs per card) to fully hardware accelerate software running of the VCA. Three new mobile Tegra parts and two new desktop graphics processors were also hinted at, with improvements to power efficiency and performance.

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On the desktop side of things, NVIDIA's roadmap included two new GPUs. Following Kepler, NVIDIA will introduce Maxwell and Volta. Maxwell will feature a new virtualized memory technology called Unified Virtual Memory. This tech will allow both the CPU and GPU to read from a single (virtual) memory store. Much as with the promise of AMD's Kaveri APU, the Unified Virtual Meory will result in speed improvements in heterogeneous applications because data will not have to be copied to/from the GPU and CPU in order for the data to be processed. Server applications will really benefit from the shared memory tech. NVIDIA did not provide details, but from the sound of it, the CPU and GPU both continue to write to their own physical memory, but their is a layer of virtualized memory on top of that, that will allow the two (or more) different processors to read from each other's memory store.
Following Maxwell, Volta will be a physically smaller chip with more transistors (likely a smaller process node). In addition to the power efficiency improvements over Maxwell, it steps up the memory bandwidth significantly. NVIDIA will use TSV (through silicon via) technology to physically mount the graphics DRAM chips over the GPU (attached to the same silicon substrate electrically). According to NVIDIA, this new TSV-mounted memory will achieve up to 1 Terabytes/second of memory bandwidth, which is a notable increase over existing GPUs.

DSCF2354.JPG

NVIDIA continues to pursue the mobile market with its line of Tegra chips that pair an ARM CPU, NVIDIA GPU, and SDR modem. Two new mobile chips called Logan and Parker will follow Tegra 4. Both new chips will support the full CUDA 5 stack and OpenGL 4.3 out of the box. Logan will feature a Kepler-based graphics porcessor on the chip that can “everything a modern computer ought to do” according to NVIDIA. Parker will have a yet-to-be-revealed graphics processor (Kepler successor). This mobile chip will utilize 3D FinFET transistors. It will have a greater number of transistors in a smaller package than previous Tegra parts (it will be about the size of a dime), and NVIDIA also plans to ramp up the frequency to wrangle more performance out of the mobile chip. NVIDIA has stated that Logan silicon should be completed towards the end of 2013, with the mobile chips entering production in 2014.

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Interestingly, Logan has a sister chip that NVIDIA is calling Kayla. This mobile chip is capable of running ray tracing applications and features OpenGL geometric shaders. It can support GPGPU code and will be compatible with Linux.

NVIDIA has been pushing CUDA for several years, now. The company has seen some respectable adoption rates, by growing from 1 Tesla supercomputer in 2008 to its graphics cards being used in 50 supercomputers, with 500 million CUDA processors on the market. There are now allegedly 640 universities working with CUDA and 37,000 academic papers on CUDA.

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Finally, NVIDIA's hinted-at new product announcement was the NVIDIA VCA, which is a GPU virtualization appliance that hooks into the network and can deliver up to 16 virtual machines running independant applications. These GPU accelerated workspaces can be presneted to thin clinets over the netowrk by installing the GRID client software on users' workstations. The specifications of the GRID VCA is rather impressive, as well.

The GRID VCA features:

  • 2 x Intel Xeon processors with 16 threads each (32 total threads)
  • 192GB to 384GB of system memory
  • 8 Kepler-based graphics cards, with two GPUs each (16 total GPUs)
  • 16 x GPU-accelerated virtual machines

The GRID VCA fits into a 4U case. It can deliver remote graphics to workstations, and is allegedly fast enough to deliver gpu accelerated software that is equivalent to having it run on the local machine (at least over LAN). The GRID Visual Computing Appliance will come in two flavors at different price points. The first will have 8 Kepler GPUs with 4GB of memory each, 16 CPU threads, and 192GB of system memory for $24,900. The other version will cost $34,900 and features 16 Kepler GPUs (4GB memory), 32 CPU threads, and 384GB system memory. On top of the hardware cost, NVIDIA is also charging licensing fees. While both GRID VCA devices can support unlimited devices, the licenses cost $2,400 and $4,800 per year respectively.

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Overall, it was an interesting keynote, and the proposed graphics cards look to be offering up some unique and necessary features that should help hasten the day of ubiquitous general purpose GPU computing. The Unified Virtual Memory was something I was not expecting, and it will be interesting to see how AMD responds. AMD is already promising shared memory in its Kaveri APU, but I am interested to see the details of how NVIDIA and AMD will accomplish shared memory with dedicated grapahics cards (and whether CrossFire/SLI setups will all have a single shared memory pool)..

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more GTC 2013 Coverage!

GTC 2013: Prepare for Graphics Overload

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 18, 2013 - 09:10 PM |
Tagged: GTC 2013, nvidia

We just received word from Tim Verry, our GTC correspondent and news troll, about his first kick at the conference. This... is his story.

Graphics card manufacturer, NVIDIA, is hosting its annual GPU Technology Conference (GTC 2013) in San Jose, California this week. PC Perspective will be roaming the exhibit floor and covering sessions as NVIDIA and its partners discuss upcoming graphics technologies, GPGPU, programming, and a number of other low level computing topics.

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The future... is tomorrow!

A number of tech companies will be on site and delivering presentations to show off their latest Kepler-based systems. NVIDIA will deliver its keynote presentation tomorrow for the press, financial and industry analysts, and business partners to provide a glimpse at the green team's roadmap throughout 2013 - and maybe beyond.

We cannot say for certain what NVIDIA will reveal during its keynote; but, since we have not been briefed ahead of time, we are completely free to speculate! I think one certainty is the official launch of the Kepler-based K6000 workstation card; for example. While I do not expect to see Maxwell, we could possibly see a planned refresh of the Kepler-based components with some incremental improvements: I predict power efficiency over performance. Perhaps we will receive a cheaper Titan-like consumer card towards the end of 2013? Wishful thinking on my part? A refresh of its GK104 architecture would be nice to see as well, even if actual hardware will not show up until next year. I expect that NVIDIA will react to whatever plans AMD has to decide whether it is in their interest to match them or not.

I do expect to see more information on GRID and Project SHIELD, however. NVIDIA has reportedly broadened the scope of this year's conference to include mobile sessions: expect Tegra programming and mobile GPGPU goodness to be on tap.

It should be an interesting week of GPU news. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more coverage as the conference gets underway.

What are you hoping to see from NVIDIA at GTC 2013?

Turn half your GTX 690 into a Quadro or Tesla?

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2013 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, hack, GTX 690, K5000, K10, quadro, tesla, linux

It will take a bit of work with a soldering iron but Hack a Day has posted an article covering how to mod one of the GPUs on a GTX690 into thinking it is either a Quadro K5000 or Tesla K10.  More people will need to apply this mod and test it to confirm that the performance of the GPU actually does match or at least compare to the professional level graphics but the ID string is definitely changed to match one of those two much more expensive GPUs.  They also believe that a similar mod could be applied to the new TITAN graphics card as it is electronically similar to the GTX690.   Of course, if things go bad during the modification you could kill a $1000 card so do be careful.

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"If hardware manufacturers want to keep their firmware crippling a secret, perhaps they shouldn’t mess with Linux users? We figure if you’re using Linux you’re quite a bit more likely than the average Windows user to crack something open and see what’s hidden inside. And so we get to the story of how [Gnif] figured out that the NVIDIA GTX690 can be hacked to perform like the Quadro K5000. The thing is, the latter costs nearly $800 more than the former!"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

New Beta NVIDIA GeForce Drivers for Tomb Raider

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2013 - 11:36 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, tomb raider

The last month has been good to PC gamers: from Starcraft, to SimCity, to Tomb Raider, all with the promise of Bioshock Infinite just around the corner. We are being dog piled by one bulky release after another... most of which we are theoretically able to play.

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Of course this is a call to action for GPU driver engineers. The software required to make your video card run is extremely complex with graphics instructions being compiled and interpreted at runtime for routinely shifting architectures. Performance increases are often measured in the double digit percentages albeit for some set "X" of components in some set "Y" of games.

GeForce 314.14 beta drivers launched early in the month with decent performance increases particularly for setups with SLi-paired 680s. Tomb Raider fans found themselves quite a bit left out with the reboot of the franchise doing everything but rebooting their PCs with NVIDIA and Intel hardware.

Now, two weeks later, NVIDIA has released yet another beta driver, dubbed 314.21, aimed squarely at Tomb Raider. Performance increases are claimed to be an average 45% higher than previous versions with some configurations seeing upwards of 60% increases in performance. The delay was allegedly caused by the hardware developer not receiving the game code with enough time before launch to create the updates.

If you are a Tomb Raider, check out the drivers at NVIDIA's website.

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Allegedly Launching Quadro K6000 GK110 GPU For Professionals

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 8, 2013 - 09:17 AM |
Tagged: quadro, nvidia, kepler, k6000, gk110

Earlier this week, NVIDIA updated its Quadro line of workstation cards with new GPUs with GK104 “Kepler” cores. The updated line introduced four new Kepler cards, but the Quadro 6000 successor was notably absent from the NVIDIA announcement. If rumors hold true, professionals may get access to a K6000 Quadro card after all, and one that is powered by GK110 as well.

GK110 Block Diagram.jpg

According to rumors around the Internet, NVIDIA has reserved its top-end Quadro slot for a GK110-based graphics card. Dubbed the K6000 (and in line with the existing Kepler Quadro cards), the high-end workstation card will feature 13 SMX units, 2,496 CUDA cores, 192 Texture Manipulation Units, 40 Raster Operations Pipeline units, and a 320-bit memory bus. The K6000 card will likely have 5GB of GDDR5 memory, like its Tesla K20 counterpart. Interestingly, this Quadro K6000 graphics card has one less SMX unit than NVIDIA’s Tesla K20X and even NVIDIA’s consumer-grade GTX Titan GPU. A comparison between the rumored K6000 card, the Quadro K5000 (GK104), and other existing GK110 cards is available in the table below. Also, note that the (rumored) K6000 specs put it more in like with the Tesla K20 than the K20X, but as it is the flagship Quadro card I felt it was still fair to compare it to the flagship Telsa and GeForce cards.

  Quadro K6000 Tesla K20X GTX Titan GK110 Full   (Not available yet) Quadro K5000
SMX Units 13 14 14 15 8
CUDA Cores 2,496 2,688 2,688 2,880 1536
TMUs 192 224 224 256 128
ROPs 40 48 48 48 32
Memory Bus 320-bit 384-bit 384-bit 384-bit 256-bit
DP TFLOPS ~1.17 TFLOPS 1.31 TFLOPS 1.31 TFLOPS ~1.4 TFLOPS .09 TFLOPS
Core GK110 GK110 GK110 GK110 GK104

The Quadro cards are in an odd situation when it comes to double precision floating point performance. The Quadro K5000 which uses GK104 brings an abysmal 90 GFLOPS of double precision. The rumored GK110-powered Quadro K6000 brings double precision performance up to approximately 1 TFLOPS, which is quite the jump and shows that GK104 really was cut down to focus on gaming performance! Further, the card that the K6000 is replacing in name, the Quadro 6000 (no prefixed K), is based on NVIDIA’s previous-generation Fermi architecture and offers .5152 TFLOPS (515.2 GFLOPS) of double precision performance. On the plus side, users can expect around 3.5 TFLOPS of single precision horsepower, which is a substantial upgrade over Quadro 6000's 1.03 TFLOPS of single precision floating point. For comparison, the GK104-based Quadro K5000 offers 2.1 TFLOPS of single precision. Although it's no full GK110, it looks to be the Quadro card to beat for the intended usage.

nvidia-quadro-k5000 GPU.jpg

Of course, Quadro is more about stable drivers, beefy memory, and single precision than double precision, but it would be nice to see the expensive Quadro workstation cards have the ability to pull double duty, as it were. NVIDIA’s Tesla line is where DP floating point is key. It is just a rather wide gap between the two lineups that the K6000 somewhat closes, fortunately. I would have really liked to see the K6000 have at least 14 SMX units, to match consumer Titan and the Tesla K20X, but rumors are not looking positive in that regard. Professionals should expect to see quite the premium with the K6000 versus the Titan, despite the hardware differences. It will likely be sold for around $3,000.

No word on availability, but the card will likely be released soon in order to complete the Kepler Quadro lineup update. 

NVIDIA Refreshes Quadro with Kepler

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 6, 2013 - 08:02 PM |
Tagged: quadro, nvidia

KeplerQuadroTop.png

Be polite, be efficient, have a plan to Kepler every card that you meet.

The professional graphics market is not designed for gamers although that should have been fairly clear. These GPUs are designed to effectively handle complex video, 3D, and high resolution display environments found in certain specialized workspaces.

This is the class of cards which allow a 3D animator to edit their creations with stereoscopic 3D glasses, for instance.

NVIDIA's branding will remain consistent with the scheme developed for the prior generation. Previously, if you were in the market for a Fermi-based Quadro solution, you would have the choice between: the Quadro 600, the 2000, the 4000, the 5000, and the 6000. Now that the world revolves around Kepler... heh heh heh... each entry has been prefixed with a K with the exception of the highest-end 6000 card. These entries are therefore:

  • Quadro K600, 192 CUDA Cores, 1GB, $199 MSRP
  • Quadro K2000, 384 CUDA Cores, 2GB, $599 MSRP
  • Quadro K4000, 768 CUDA Cores, 3GB, $1,269 MSRP
  • Quadro K5000, 1536 CUDA Cores, 4GB + ECC, $2,249 MSRP

This product line is demonstrated graphically by the NVIDIA slide below.

KeplerQuadro.png

Clicking the image while viewing the article will enlargen it.

It should be noted that each of the above products have been developed on the series of GK10X architectures and not the more computationally-intensive GK110 products. As the above slide alludes: while these Quadro cards are designed to handle the graphically-intensive applications, they are designed to be paired with GK110-based Tesla K20 cards to offload the GPGPU muscle.

Should you need the extra GPGPU performance, particularly when it comes to double precision mathematics, those cards can be found online for somewhere in the ballpark of $3,300 and $3,500.

The new Quadro products were available starting yesterday, March 5th, from “leading OEM and Channel Partners.”

Source: NVIDIA

A year of GeForce drivers reviewed

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 5, 2013 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, graphics drivers

After evaluating the evolution of AMD's drivers over 2012, [H]ard|OCP has now finalized their look at NVIDIA's offerings over the past year.  They chose a half dozen drivers spanning March to December, tested on both the GTX680 and GTX 670.  As you can see throughout the review, NVIDIA's performance was mostly stable apart from the final driver of 2012 which provided noticeably improved performance in several games.  [H] compared the frame rates from both companies on the same chart and it makes the steady improvement of AMD's drivers over the year even more obvious.  That does imply that AMD's initial drivers for this year needed improvement and that perhaps the driver team at AMD has a lot of work cut out for them in 2013 if they want to reach a high level of performance across the board, with game specific improvements offering the only deviation in performance.

H_Geforce.jpg

"We have evaluated AMD and NVIDIA's 2012 video card driver performances separately. Today we will be combining these two evaluations to show each companies full body of work in 2012. We will also be looking at some unique graphs that show how each video cards driver improved or worsened performance in each game throughout the year."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP