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Inside NVIDIA Fermi Graphics Architecture E-mail
Written by TechReport   
Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Inside NVIDIA Fermi Graphics Architecture

It seems probable that September 2009 will be more than just a footnote in the annals of computing, especially when one considers graphics processors. AMD made the ninth month of the ninth year in the twenty-first century the one it announced, released, and made available at retail its next-generation DX11 graphics processor: Cypress. Nvidia managed to sneak Fermi in to September 2009 as well, talking about the chip publicly on the 30th. We refer you to our initial poke at things from GTC to get you started, if you have no idea what Fermi is at this point.

If you've been following Fermi since it was announced, you'll know Nvidia didn't really talk about the specific graphics transistors in Fermi implementations. We're going to take a stab at that, though, using information gleaned from the whitepaper, bits teased from Nvidia engineers, and educated guesswork. Remember, however, that graphics transistor chatter does ultimately remain a guess until the real details are unveiled.

"Why did Nvidia only talk about the compute side of Fermi?", you might ask. You can't have failed to notice the company's push into non-graphics application of GPUs in recent years. The G80 processor launch, along with CUDA, has meant that people interested in using the GPU for non-graphics computation have had a viable platform for doing so. The processors have been very capable, and CUDA offers a more direct avenue for programming them than hijacking a high-level graphics shading language.

Since that first serious attempt at providing infrastructure for GPU compute, we've seen CUDA evolve heavily and the competition and infrastructure along with it: AMD's Stream programming initiative has grown to include the GPU, OpenCL now allows developers to harness GPU power across multiple platforms, and Microsoft now has a DirectCompute portion of DirectX that leverages the devices in a more general non-graphics way. Oh, and we mustn't forget fleeting hints at the future from the likes of Rapidmind, now a part of Intel. TechReport


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