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Supergroup: Nvidia Announces Support for Arm Processors

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Nvidia made a slew of supercomputer-related announcements today at the International Supercomputing Conference in Germany. They announced that Japan's fastest supercomputer adopted its Nvidia GPU Cloud offering, that it developed the world's 22nd-fastest supercomputer to help it make self-driving cars and plans to add support for Arm processors to its software by the end of the year.

That last announcement could be the most important. The company said it's bringing the "full stack" of artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) software, which "accelerates more than 600 HPC applications and all AI frameworks" to the Arm ecosystem. That means Nvidia's effectively making its software hardware-agnostic by letting supercomputer makers use x86 offerings from Intel and AMD or Arm processors at their discretion.

“Supercomputers are the essential instruments of scientific discovery, and achieving exascale supercomputing will dramatically expand the frontier of human knowledge,"  Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said in the company's announcement. "As traditional compute scaling ends, power will limit all supercomputers. The combination of Nvidia's CUDA-accelerated computing and Arm’s energy-efficient CPU architecture will give the HPC community a boost to exascale.”

That may sound like a bunch of gobbledygook, but it signals Nvidia's intention of competing against Intel and AMD--as well as benefiting from their success--when it comes to exascale supercomputers. Intel announced in March that its Xe graphics would power the first exascale supercomputer; AMD followed that announcement in May by saying its chips would power the fastest exascale supercomputer.

What's an Exascale Computer?

Exascale computers are devices capable of processing at least one exaFLOP per second. That's a quintillion -- or a billion billion -- operations. That much power requires advanced hardware, sure, but it also relies on software designed specifically to handle such a massive undertaking. Nvidia wants to offer both via its GPUs and the software it's expanding to Arm.

Nvidia said that software includes "all Nvidia CUDA-X AI and HPC libraries, GPU-accelerated AI frameworks and software development tools such as PGI compilers with OpenACC support and profilers." The breadth of the company's software offering combined with the performance offered by its GPUs has reportedly led Nvidia to power 22 of the world's 25 most energy-efficient supercomputers.

  • setx
    Is anyone even interested in ARMs for supercomputers?
    Quick search in Top500 shows only 1 ARM entry on 156'th place.
    Reply
  • NightHawkRMX
    I dont known why you would want arm and nvidia. ARM processors are generally not going to be able to utilize the graphics to do much
    Reply
  • bit_user
    admin said:
    Nvidia's effectively making its software hardware-agnostic by letting supercomputer makers use x86 offerings from Intel and AMD or Arm processors at their discretion.
    Hmmm... what about POWER? Not long ago, Nvidia had partnership with IBM, whose latest POWER CPUs are the first (and AFAIK only) CPU to natively implement NVLink.

    admin said:
    "As traditional compute scaling ends, power will limit all supercomputers. The combination of Nvidia's CUDA-accelerated computing and Arm’s energy-efficient CPU architecture will give the HPC community a boost to exascale.”

    That may sound like a bunch of gobbledygook
    a bunch of Gobbledygook? Are you trying to write for like 6th-graders? It's fine if you want to break it down, but maybe don't demean readers.

    And as for breaking it down, you skipped what they meant by "traditional compute scaling" - the idea that legacy CPU architectures will naturally get more efficient over time.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    setx said:
    Is anyone even interested in ARMs for supercomputers?
    Quick search in Top500 shows only 1 ARM entry on 156'th place.
    You're looking backwards, while they're looking forwards.

    There's been a lot of coverage of both ARM and others using the ARMv8-A ISA in server and hyperscale applications. So far, the list of custom server cores includes: ARM Neoverse, Amazon Gravion, Ampere (formerly AMCC) X-Gene, Qualcomm Centriq (defunct?), Cavium (now Marvell) ThunderX2. Huawei also has a few generations of ARM-based server CPUs deployed.

    So, while you weren't looking, a lot of big money has been pouring into taking ARM into servers, the cloud, and beyond.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    remixislandmusic said:
    I dont known why you would want arm and nvidia. ARM processors are generally not going to be able to utilize the graphics to do much
    Hmmm... have you checked out the graphics capabilities of modern smart phones, lately?

    ?rel=ugc]https://benchmarks.ul.com/3dmark-android
    And they manage that on only a couple watts. So, imagine what happens when you scale up to servers packed-full of even more powerful ARM cores!
    Reply
  • setx
    bit_user said:
    You're looking backwards, while they're looking forwards.
    ARM is well known for "looking forwards" to server/desktop markets for many years now. Now they added 'exascale supercomputing' to their PR slides.

    bit_user said:
    So, while you weren't looking, a lot of big money has been pouring into taking ARM into servers, the cloud, and beyond.
    I don't doubt big money been poured for many years but where are the results? I've pointed to that lone supercomputer because that's the real thing you can see now.

    Look at AMD for example: they were developing Zen uarch for CPUs with x86 and ARM ISA variants. Where is the ARM variant now? Killed.

    "Big money been poured" absolutely doesn't mean it'll succeed, take for example Intel and phones or recently Intel and 5G.
    Reply
  • GetSmart
    Not sure why NVidia bothered to cover ARM, perhaps for custom HPC projects? Reality-wise ARM in supercomputing and servers is not in a particularly great position. As these graphs demonstrates.
    Top500?rel=ugc]http://3s81si1s5ygj3mzby34dq6qf-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/top500-jun-2019-processors.jpg']Top500 June 2019 - Processors.jpgIDC?rel=ugc]https://www.nextplatform.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/idc-servers-q1-2019-x86-non.jpg']IDC Servers Revenue Q1 2019 - x86 versus non-x86
    Reply
  • bit_user
    setx said:
    I don't doubt big money been poured for many years but where are the results? I've pointed to that lone supercomputer because that's the real thing you can see now.
    It seems you've got the sequence wrong. First, you need support for a GPU software stack. Then, you'll start to see ARM-based supercomputers. Since and Intel are still squarely in the x86 camp, while Nvidia already has ARM-based SoCs, it's natural to expect the first GPU stack supported on ARM is Nvidia's.

    setx said:
    Look at AMD for example: they were developing Zen uarch for CPUs with x86 and ARM ISA variants. Where is the ARM variant now? Killed.
    Yes, or mothballed.

    People have been predicting ARMs dominance of the cloud for a while. Sometimes, it's difficult to get the timing right, on these predictions, but the fundamentals haven't really changed and the trends do indeed seem to be moving in that direction.

    setx said:
    "Big money been poured" absolutely doesn't mean it'll succeed, take for example Intel and phones or recently Intel and 5G.
    You should differentiate between one company making a bid with an existing technology it already has, vs. a whole industry making investments based on what logically makes the most sense.

    Part of the motivation to switch to ARM was to break Intel's hegemony, which is now alleviated by an ascendant AMD, but the other part is that ARM is a more efficient ISA. That's one of the main reasons Intel failed to penetrate mobile - x86's fundamental inefficiencies.

    Because AMD's competitiveness gave big customers better bargaining power, that might've slowed the transition to ARM. But, as the article points out, x86 is going to run out of gas (in terms of perf/W) sooner than ARM. For that reason alone, it seems virtually inevitable.

    The only wrinkle might be RISC V. However, the analysis I've read doesn't reveal any big advantages in the ISA, itself, and the chip makers aren't nearly as far along with implementations of it. For now, probably the biggest threat RISC V poses is at the low-end.
    Reply
  • setx
    bit_user said:
    It seems you've got the sequence wrong. First, you need support for a GPU software stack. Then, you'll start to see ARM-based supercomputers. Since and Intel are still squarely in the x86 camp, while Nvidia already has ARM-based SoCs, it's natural to expect the first GPU stack supported on ARM is Nvidia's.
    It seems you don't even understand what we are talking about. Just go to Top500 and count how many systems there are mostly GPU based and how many are pure CPU.

    bit_user said:
    but the other part is that ARM is a more efficient ISA. That's one of the main reasons Intel failed to penetrate mobile - x86's fundamental inefficiencies.
    Again this mystical "ARM is a more efficient ISA". Software optimization for specific architecture and efficiency of main loop are way more important than some theoretical ISA comparison. Great indicator here are non-GPU supercomputers where energy efficiency is extremely important.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    setx said:
    It seems you don't even understand what we are talking about. Just go to Top500 and count how many systems there are mostly GPU based and how many are pure CPU.
    Okay, I'm looking at the top 20 or so and they fall in 3 categories:
    GPU-based (including Xeon Phi)
    Chinese (in which case they use their own GPU-equivalent)
    Two pure CPU (Intel)
    Virtually everyone seems to recognize that general purpose CPUs are not well-suited to HPC workloads. AFAIK, the pure CPU entries aren't even targeted at the same kinds of workloads as the others.

    setx said:
    Again this mystical "ARM is a more efficient ISA". Software optimization for specific architecture and efficiency of main loop are way more important than some theoretical ISA comparison.
    Huh? You can optimize software for ARM, too.

    Given an equivalent degree of optimization, the x86 ISA is moribund. Intel and AMD have done a phenomenal job continuing to milk performance out of it, but even that has certain overheads. There's a good reason why Intel's x86 efforts weren't competitive, in mobile or IoT.

    Furthermre, Intel's discontinuation of Xeon Phi and launching of their dGPU products is an acknowledgement that x86 isn't well-suited to the heavy-lifting needed in HPC.
    Reply