Graphics Cards Guide

NVIDIA's Head Honchos Speak - Computing Trends and Platform Updates

General Computing & NVIDIA's Processor Strategy

The General Computing Scene

There are 3 primary areas of computing that NVIDIA is investing in - Mobile, Visual and Parallel computing. While they've primarily been a visual computing solutions providers, with their CUDA momentum and a parallel processing centric GPUs, Jen-Hsun believes the company is probably 65% involved in Parallel Computing scene (considering their Visual solutions are sort of a branch of parallel computing at this juncture), while the rest of the focus pertains to their mobile computing with their Tegra investment.

With the heightened CUDA momentum, GPU computing and software engineering to make it all happen, Jen-Hsun mentioned that they are opening up the software and processor architecture again after a very long period of status-quo. The PC is evolving and thus a whole new industry and is brewing with new vendors, distributors and more.

Even the way software is consumed is drastically changing. One used to buy software off the shelf and uses it for the life of the PC, which could be 3 to 5 years. Today, apps are very affordable and sometimes even free; one can download it off the air and quickly discard it if it's not appealing to the users. So the software usage model is shifting and NVIDIA's CEO has some interesting comments to add on:-

  • According to Jen-Hsun, software used to be very important, but x86 software compatibility is not important at all today. This is because there's a constant supply of apps coming in all the time. So the heritage (referring to the x86 legacy apps) is only important in the server room and is no longer important for consumers these days. In fact, he mentioned it's so unimportant these days that the fastest growing PC company is Apple and it doesn't run legacy applications at all. The world has changed.
     
  • In future, most mobile computing devices will be made up of SOC implementations, which could be integrated behind the screens, thus making tablets the dominant choice of physical implementation, while notebooks/netbooks, would probably just be the same devices with keyboard attachments. Dock the tablet on a docking station, and you have a full fledged PC.
     
  • In 5 years, probably nobody would need their laptops in conferences and meetings. Either a tablet or Super Phone would prevail.
     
  •  Moving on to a more technical note, improving direct connectivity of graphics cards are not important. Today, the I/O data from storage or fiber channel or something else, goes in to system memory first. And then from system memory, it gets copiedNVIDIA's Processor Strategy
  • According to Jen-Hsun, their 'CPU' strategy is in using the ARM architecture, which they've already invested in via the formation of Tegra. NVIDIA chose ARM because it's the fastest growing CPU architecture in the world. It's the CPU of choice for the most important mobile operating systems in the word today; like Android, Apple etc. NVIDIA also chose ARM because there are many more application developers than any other CPUs in the world today.
  • Jen-Hsun carried on with these interesting notes, "It is the CPU of the future, not a CPU of the past. x86 architecture growth is flattening out while ARM growth is going up almost exponentially. Even Microsoft has licensed for ARM and they are a software company. Where is the biggest market share for device growth now and in the future? It's in ARM based products. Microsoft doesn't have market share yet in ARM based devices and it's a huge potential for them. All of the smartest companies are investing into ARM, not x86. In 5 or 10 years time, ARM could perhaps perform a whole lot better to be able to populate larger or more powerful devices. Also there's still the 64-bit version of Tegra to look forward to in the future."
    out to other devices like the graphics card's local memory. This move is very expensive - requiring double copies, it's very wasteful use of the memory and eats bandwidth unnecessarily. The Ideal approach is just a direct copy. It can be over PCIe because it has a much higher bandwidth than fiber channel or anything else. PCIe has plenty of bandwidth. The problem is system memory and to waste system memory with this extra copy. In the future, I/O devices could probably DMA directly to the graphics card's memory for copying data instead of copying to system memory first. It's not an easy task to put this into action, but Jen-Hsun is hopeful that it's workable in the future.
     
  • Lastly, he mentions that computational resources at this point of time is nearly infinite, but transmission bandwidth is probably still the limiting factor. Thus data and process efficiencies are still required to get the most out of the existing transmission architectures until unless there's a new shift on the horizon. (Editor's Note: perhaps Light Peak by Intel).

 

NVIDIA's Processor Strategy

According to Jen-Hsun, their 'CPU' strategy is in using the ARM architecture, which they've already invested in via the formation of Tegra. NVIDIA chose ARM because it's the fastest growing CPU architecture in the world. It's the CPU of choice for the most important mobile operating systems in the word today; like Android, Apple etc. NVIDIA also chose ARM because there are many more application developers than any other CPUs in the world today.

Jen-Hsun carried on with these interesting notes, "It is the CPU of the future, not a CPU of the past. x86 architecture growth is flattening out while ARM growth is going up almost exponentially. Even Microsoft has licensed for ARM and they are a software company. Where is the biggest market share for device growth now and in the future? It's in ARM based products. Microsoft doesn't have market share yet in ARM based devices and it's a huge potential for them. All of the smartest companies are investing into ARM, not x86. In 5 or 10 years time, ARM could perhaps perform a whole lot better to be able to populate larger or more powerful devices. Also there's still the 64-bit version of Tegra to look forward to in the future."