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Nvidia's Fermi Architecture Debuts; Nouveau Driver Already Working 70

Posted by timothy
from the those-ndas-must-have-really-hurt-your-backs dept.
crookedvulture writes Nvidia has lifted the curtain on reviews of its latest GPU architecture, which will be available first in the high-end GeForce GTX 680 graphics card. The underlying GK104 processor is much smaller than the equivalent AMD GPU, with fewer transistors, a narrower path to memory, and greatly simplified control logic that relies more heavily on Nvidia's compiler software. Despite the modest chip, Nvidia's new architecture is efficient enough that The Tech Report, PC Perspective, and AnandTech all found the GeForce GTX 680's gaming performance to be largely comparable to AMD's fastest Radeon, which costs $50 more. The GTX 680 also offers other notable perks, like a PCI Express 3.0 interface, dynamic clock scaling, new video encoding tech, and a smarter vsync mechanism. It's rather power-efficient, too, but the decision to focus on graphics workloads means the chip won't be as good a fit for Nvidia's compute-centric Tesla products. A bigger GPU based on the Kepler architecture is expected to serve that market." Read on below for good news (at least if you prefer Free software) from an anonymous reader. Update: 03/22 19:35 GMT by T : Mea culpa -- that headline should say "Kepler," rather than Fermi; HT to Dave from Hot Hardware (here's HH's take on the new GPU).
Our anonymous friend writes "The open-source Nouveau driver project that reverse-engineers the official NVIDIA driver to provide a free software alternative has made some big accomplishments. Nouveau announced today they have same-day Kepler support and are now de-staging on Linux. The GeForce GTX 680 'Kepler' launch just happened hours prior to Nouveau, somehow managing initial mode-setting support with early hardware, from a project that NVIDIA 'officially' does not support. The de-staging in the Linux kernel now means that the driver is at version 1.0 with a stable ABI."
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Nvidia's Fermi Architecture Debuts; Nouveau Driver Already Working

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  • Wrong architecture! (Score:5, Informative)

    by kz26 (1017248) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @01:20PM (#39442545) Homepage
    I believe you mean Kepler, not Fermi, in the story title.
  • someone made a total fail post here
  • We're probably looking at the GPU for next gen Xbox/Playstation consoles, probably in a multi-GPU version.
    • by Narishma (822073)

      The rumours around all point to all next gen consoles having AMD GPUs in them though.

      • by dstyle5 (702493)
        With XBOX 1 Nvidia burnt their bridges with Microsoft over licensing and Microsoft moved to ATI for the 360 since ATI would design the GPU for Microsoft, but Microsoft owns it.

        I don't know what licensing agreement Sony & Nvidia had with the PS3, but if I'm Sony and I see what the other guys are doing I would rather go with the more flexible GPU design house. That and ATI's Fusion experience would probably help tip the scales in their favor too.
  • Nouveau (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Narishma (822073) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @01:56PM (#39442919)

    If the Nouveau project doesn't get support from Nvidia, how did they manage to support this new chip before it's release? Have they had access to one of the cards sent to the press?

    • Re:Nouveau (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kryis (947024) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @01:59PM (#39442971)
      It doesn't *officially* get support from Nvidia. That isn't the same as not getting support at all.
      • by shish (588640)

        It doesn't *officially* get support from Nvidia

        To be fair, the summary says it officially doesn't get support, which to me brings images of the CEO phoning up some newspapers and saying "We don't support open source work. That is all, *click*"...

        • by Ranguvar (1924024)

          They have secretaries to deal with the open-source 'wierdos'.

        • It more means that nVidia helps them out in some ways, however it is at nVidia's discretion. They also aren't going to help you out if it doesn't work and so on.

          So nVidia officially supports their binary driver, this one they are willing to help the project out when they want, but that's it.

    • Nouveau, somehow managing initial mode-setting support with early hardware, from a project that NVIDIA 'officially' does not support.

      Straight from the summary....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:28PM (#39443283)
    Firstly, this new architecture (GK104) has a great number of cores (192 versus 32 of the Fermi architecture) sharing a single control logic within a stream multiprocessor (SM). Internally, each SM is SIMD, so this move is bad for divergent kernels, i.e., algorithms containing if-then-else constructs. Secondly, as usual from Nvidia, the GeForce brand has poor double-precision performance, only 1/8 of the SP's. On the other hand, the AMD Radeon HD7000 family doubles this fraction, being much faster at DP operations, which is a must for scientific computing.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      A GPU manufacturer optimising their cards for 3D graphics performance? Shocking!

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        actually, no, nvidia artificially limits performance to specific profiles.. geforce has shitty gpgpu performance, quadro has decent gfx and gpgu, and their 'tesla' stuff is all gpgpu.

    • by Ranguvar (1924024)

      NVIDIA artificially limits their double-precision performance to boost sales of their Quadro chips.

    • by jensend (71114) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:19PM (#39444447)

      The double precision situation is a lot worse than that. For GK104, fp64 performance is only 1/24 fp32. Previous to this, NV's consumer cards did fp64 at 1/12 (midrange) or 1/8 (high-end) fp32; I guess that wasn't enough handicapping to protect their Tesla line so they bumped it up.

      If you need more precision than fp32 and want to use nV consumer GPUs you should consider software emulation. A very simple software double emulation scheme can give you 1/6 - 1/4 of fp32 performance. Of course it's less precise than fp64- it has 48 significand bits (double fp32's 24, less than fp64's 53) and 8 exp. bits (same as fp32, 3 less than fp64), and to get ~1/4 of fp32 performance you have to skip a lot of error/NaN/inf handling type stuff. But it's probably sufficient for a lot of applications where people use fp64. Even software "quad-single" (96 significand bits using 4 32-bit floats) would likely be faster than nV's native fp64.

      OTOH, AMD doesn't have much reason to handicap its cards, as you mention, its cards do fp64 at 1/4 fp32-- and that's with full IEEE 754 compliance. They used to be at a big disadvantage for GPGPU, but with their new compute-oriented GCN architecture and their now-huge fp64 lead for $2000 cards, I think a lot of GPGPU folks will switch.

      • by jensend (71114)

        That should say "sub-$2000 cards" - I forgot that slashdot eats less than signs unless you use HTML entities.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I don't know where you get your numbers from. Fermi class hardware (C20xx) has 1/2 the fp64 performance (~450GF) compared to fp32 (~1TF), and old Tesla (C10xx) has about 1/8 or so.

        Realistically unless you load tiny chips of data and wail on them from shared memory for a good long time it doesn't matter because there's no way main memory bandwidth (let alone streaming data in over pci-e) can keep up anyway.

        • Try reading, it's fun!

          If you bothered to read my post you would notice I said those were the performance figures for GK104 and consumer cards. Of course Tesla has fp64 at 1/2 fp32, but to get a worthwhile Tesla card you're looking at ~$2000.

    • by rodsoft (892241)

      Firstly, this new architecture (GK104) has a great number of cores (192 versus 32 of the Fermi architecture) sharing a single control logic within a stream multiprocessor (SM). Internally, each SM is SIMD, so this move is bad for divergent kernels, i.e., algorithms containing if-then-else constructs.

      Actually this is not true. The SIMD width (warp size) is still 32. Divergent kernels won't suffer more with kepler. Maybe you got the wrong impression because nvidia's diagram with its architecture might be oversimplified.

  • by SgtDink (1930798) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:56PM (#39443581)
    Once again they don't have same day OS/2 support. Do they seriously expect to remain viable if they don't know who there customers are?
  • NVidia have pulled a past one here, which doesn't seem to have been widely picked up yet.
    The codename for the 680 is GK104. The 460 and 560 cards were based on the cut-down GF104 and GF114 GPUs respectively and were midrange parts. The 480 and 580 high-end parts were based on the full GF100 and GF110 GPUs respectively and had a 384-bit memory bus (rather than the 256-bit bus used on the GF1x4 parts).

    In other words - the 680 is really what would otherwise have been called the 660, it's just that nVidia's wor

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