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Nvidia's CUDA: The End of the CPU?

Vive le GeForce FX!

The two worlds remained separate for a long time. We used the CPU (or several CPUs) for office and Internet applications and GPUs were good only for drawing pretty pictures faster. But a single event would change all that: the appearance of programmability in GPUs. At first, CPUs had nothing to fear. The first so-called programmable GPUs (the NV20 and R200) were far from being a threat. The number of instructions for a program remained limited to around 10, and they worked on exotic data types like nine- or 12-bit fixed-point numbers.

But Moore’s Law rears its head once again. Not only does the increase in the number of transistors make it possible to increase the number of calculating units, but it also increases their flexibility. So, the appearance of the NV30 was significant for several reasons. While gamers may not induct the NV30 into their hall of fame, it did usher in two factors that were important in changing the mindset that sees GPUs as nothing more than graphics accelerators:

  • support for single-precision floating-point calculations (even if it didn’t comply with the IEEE754 standard);
  • support for a number of instructions in excess of a thousand.

At this point, all the conditions were in place to attract a few curious researchers on the lookout for ways to wring out more processing power.

  • CUDA software enables GPUs to do tasks normally reserved for CPUs. We look at how it works and its real and potential performance advantages.

    Nvidia's CUDA: The End of the CPU? : Read more
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  • pulasky
    CRAP "TECH"
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  • Well if the technology was used just to play games yes, it would be crap tech, spending billions just so we can play quake doesnt make much sense ;)
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  • MTLance
    Wow a gaming GFX into a serious work horse LMAO.
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  • dariushro
    The Best thing that could happen is for M$ to release an API similar to DirextX for developers. That way both ATI and NVidia can support the API.
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  • dmuir
    And no mention of OpenCL? I guess there's not a lot of details about it yet, but I find it surprising that you look to M$ for a unified API (who have no plans to do so that we know of), when Apple has already announced that they'll be releasing one next year. (unless I've totally misunderstood things...)
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  • neodude007
    Im not gonna bother reading this article, I just thought the title was funny seeing as how Nvidia claims CUDA in NO way replaces the CPU and that is simply not their goal.
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  • LazyGarfield
    I´d like it better if DirectX wouldnt be used.

    Anyways, NV wants to sell cuda, so why would they change to DX ,-)
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  • I think the best way to go for MS is announce to support OpenCL like Apple. That way it will make things a lot easier for the developers and it makes MS look good to support the oen standard.
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  • Shadow703793
    Mr RobotoVery interesting. I'm anxiously awaiting the RapiHD video encoder. Everyone knows how long it takes to encode a standard definition video, let alone an HD or multiple HD videos. If a 10x speedup can materialize from the CUDA API, lets just say it's more than welcome.I understand from the launch if the GTX280 and GTX260 that Nvidia has a broader outlook for the use of these GPU's. However I don't buy it fully especially when they cost so much to manufacture and use so much power. The GTX http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gore-Tex 280 has been reported as using upwards of 300w. That doesn't translate to that much money in electrical bills over a span of a year but never the less it's still moving backwards. Also don't expect the GTX series to come down in price anytime soon. The 8800GTX and it's 384 Bit bus is a prime example of how much these devices cost to make. Unless CUDA becomes standardized it's just another niche product fighting against other niche products from ATI and Intel.On the other hand though, I was reading on Anand Tech that Nvidia is sticking 4 of these cards (each with 4GB RAM) in a 1U formfactor using CUDA to create ultra cheap Super Computers. For the scientific community this may be just what they're looking for. Maybe I was misled into believing that these cards were for gaming and anything else would be an added benefit. With the price and power consumption this makes much more sense now. Agreed. Also I predict in a few years we will have a Linux distro that will run mostly on a GPU.
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