Nvidia to push future Tegra CPUs in servers

Nvidia may pull in future Tegra server chips into Tesla line

Looking beyond graphics processors, Nvidia is looking 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.

Nvidia's target market for server chips could be GPU-dependent systems delivering graphics or mathematical rendering in the cloud, McCarron said. ARM processors are not as proficient as GPUs in performing complex calculations, so Nvidia could end up making trade-offs on its ARM CPU design on power to bring in more performance.

"There are evolutionary pressures that drives you when you are going after servers compared to handhelds," McCarron said.

Companies like SeaMicro and Dell are building servers based on Intel's low-power Atom processors, but Nvidia's entry could fuel more interest in ARM servers. Nvidia's competitors will be Marvell, which last year announced a 1.6GHz quad-core ARM-based server chip, and Calxeda, which has built a server chip based on a quad-core ARM processor.

A big hurdle to entering the server market for ARM is software compatibility, as most of data-center code is written for x86 servers. A lot of IT implementations require corresponding server- and client-level compatibility, but x86 binary compatibility is less of a concern for Nvidia's future server chips delivering cloud services, Scott said.

"In the back room, in the cloud, binary compatibility doesn't matter nearly so much either," Scott said. "They are providing a service over the Web and they can switch to ARM, that is more power efficient."

The software stack is less of a worry on the server side than it is on the client side, where they could be issues around compatibility, McCarron said.

"As a user of a [cloud] service, the instruction set is meaningless. On the cloud side having to provide the service, that's where the investment comes in," McCarron said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags processorsnvidiaComponentsArm Holdings

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?