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The Return of the Vector Processor

Oct 15, 2009, 12:03 (0 Talkback[s])

"Let me explain. My previous opinion of GP-GPU computing was certainly positive and I could see it changing the HPC game in some corners. Users were reporting fantastic speed-ups in some areas, new users could experiment with existing video cards, and the larger video market was going to keep the cost down. There were, however, some fundamental issues expressed by many of the more traditional HPC users. Until they were resolved, I assumed these issues would limit just how far GPU computing could go in the HPC world. Based on the Fermi technical material I have read, Nvidia has been listening and many of these issues have been addressed head-on. I predict this device and others like it will change the HPC landscape, but first a few details about the Fermi architecture.

One concern voiced by Michael Feldman of HPCwire was the lack of ECC memory. This opinion combined with a recent University of Toronto/Google paper on DRAM Errors in the Wild: A Large-Scale Field Study point to the need for ECC in the data center. (As an aside, I'll have more to say on this topic in the coming months. I have been rigorously testing non-ECC systems and I find some of them quite robust.) Nvidia has been listening to the market and one of the new features offered by Fermi is support for ECC memory. This new feature is not an afterthought as ECC protection extends down from DRAM to L2 and L1 caches, shared memory, and register files. Scratch that one off the list."

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