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Nvidia GPU to power exascale computer

Posted: 22 Nov 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:supercomputers? processor? graphics? GPU?

Nvidia has revealed some information about the graphics chip the company is developing to power an exascale computer by 2018 as part of a program funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Bill Dally, chief scientist, Nvidia discussed the Echelon system at Supercomputing 2010. The system is still just a paper design backed up by simulations, so it could change radically before it gets built. Meanwhile, elements of its design are expected to appear across the company's portfolio of handheld to supercomputer graphics products.

"If you can do a really good job computing at one scale you can do it at another," said Dally. "Our focus at Nvidia is on performance per watt [across all products], and we are starting to reuse designs across the spectrum from Tegra to Tesla chips," he said.

Dally described a graphics core that can process a floating point operation using just 10picojoules of power, down from 200picojoules on Nvidia's current Fermi chips. Eight of the cores would be packaged on a single streaming multiprocessor (SM) and 128 of the SMs would be packed into one chip.

The result would be a thousand-core graphics chip with each core capable of handling four double precision floating-point operations per clock cycle--the equivalent of 10 teraflops on a chip. A chip with just eight of the cores would someday power a handset, Dally said.

The Echelon chip packs just twice as many cores as today's high-end Nvidia GPUs. However, today's cores handle just one double precision floating-point operation per cycle, compared to four for the Echelon chip.

Many of the advances in the chip come from its use of memory. The Echelon chip will use 256Mbytes of SRAM memory that can be dynamically configured to meet the needs of an application.

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