Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, has announced the company will be making a complete transition to Intel processors (opens in new tab) for its upcoming DGX H100 unit and supercomputer projects in the future. Nvidia will be using Intel's forthcoming Rapids Sapphire Xeon processor lineup as a total replacement for AMD's Zen 3 EPYC CPU, which Nvidia has been using extensively for years.
Huang says the primary reason for switching CPU brands was the exceptional single-threaded performance Sapphire Rapids offers over the competition. It makes a lot of sense, considering Sapphire Rapids Xeon Scalable processors are already shipping to end customers. AMD, meanwhile, has to do with its current Zen 3 and Zen 3 V-Cache EPYC processors. The company has still not announced a release date for its upcoming Genoa Zen 4-based server processors, which will be the direct countermeasure to Sapphire Rapids.
We don't have full details on Sapphire Rapids yet, but we already know more information based on leaks over the past year. Sapphire Rapids is Intel's next-generation server architecture and will use the same Golden Cove performance cores as Intel's desktop Alder Lake architecture. Sapphire Rapids is the server version of Alder Lake.
As a result, Sapphire Rapids should have a similar IPC uplift as Intel's Alder Lake architecture. Sapphire Rapids will also support the latest memory and storage technologies, including DDR5, HBM2E, and PCIe Gen 5, bringing it up to date with the latest and most remarkable technologies.
Core counts should peak at 56 cores on the highest trim levels, with 80 PCIe Gen 5 lanes. The only problem with Intel's core specifications is that AMD far outperforms Intel in core count, with its top-of-the-line chips, such as the EPYC 7773X, feature 64 cores, eight more than Sapphire Rapids.
It should make Sapphire Rapids inferior in multi-threaded performance compared to Zen 3 EPYC, and according to leaked benchmark results of Sapphire Rapids, this appears to be true. However, for Nvidia, it seems this will be a non-issue as it is focusing almost entirely on single-threaded performance for its H100 DGX units.
Sapphire Rapids will also support several other newer technologies Intel's previous Ice Lake server architecture did not. Some of these include the new AMX AVX512_BF16 instruction set for deep learning applications and a special Data Streaming Accelerator that offloads all storage calls from the CPU to a dedicated chip to decrease CPU utilization.
For Nvidia, Sapphire Rapids will provide its DGX units with far higher single-threaded performance plus higher memory bandwidth and more PCIe bandwidth compared to AMD's current Zen 3 offerings.
DGX H100 caters to AI-intensive applications in particular, with each DGX unit featuring 8 of Nvidia's brand new Hopper H100 GPUs with a performance output of 32 petaFlops. For more details, check out our coverage.