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Nvidia to push future Tegra CPUs in servers

Nvidia may pull in future Tegra server chips into Tesla line

By Agam Shah
October 25, 2011 04:24 PM ET

IDG News Service - Looking beyond graphics processors, Nvidia wants to push future Tegra chips into servers as the chip maker tries to break Intel's dominance in that market.

Nvidia is developing its first CPU for PCs and servers, code-named Project Denver, which is based on the ARM architecture and also aimed at mobile devices. The Denver core will go into future Tegra chips, and special improvements will be made to server chips, said Steve Scott, chief technology officer of Nvidia's Tesla product line of enterprise graphics chips.

"There are some things we are doing that are particularly nice for our purposes. It will likely go into the Tesla line at some point," Scott said.

Nvidia's current presence in servers is mostly related to its Tesla graphics processors, which are being used in the world's fastest supercomputers to perform complex scientific and math calculations. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is building a supercomputer called Titan that will include Nvidia's Tesla processors and Advanced Micro Devices' 16-core Opteron CPUs to deliver a peak performance of up to 20 petaflops. The fastest supercomputer is Japan's K, which delivers a performance of 8 petaflops.

Scott did not share specific details on how Nvidia would tweak future Tegra chips for servers. However, the company has said that Project Denver chips will harness the parallel processing capabilities of Nvidia GPUs with ARM CPUs, which could boost server performance.

Most servers today run on Intel's Xeon and AMD's Opteron chips, but there is growing interest in low-power ARM processors as companies look to cut electricity bills. Analysts have said that while ARM processors may lack the performance and reliability to overtake traditional server chips for critical tasks, a large collection of lightweight ARM cores could process high volumes of Web-based transactions while drawing less power.

Running complex calculations by harnessing the parallel processing capabilities of CPUs and GPUs can speed up servers while reducing overall power consumption and computing overhead, Scott said. Nvidia is already building graphics cores in current Tegra processors.

"The ARM instruction set is more power efficient than x86. That's why there are people looking to build ARM-based servers. That's why we like ARM in phones, because you get more performance per watt, more performance per square millimeter," Scott said.

It makes sense for Nvidia to push its Tegra chips into the server market, which has higher margins than mobile devices, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

"They have some interesting parallel processing technology that works out for them, and they have ARM, which makes sense for them to pair to go after that class of applications," McCarron said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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