Nvidia announced its "Project Denver" at CES, an effort to combine ARM-designed CPUs with Nvidia GPUs on the same chip for use in servers, PCs and supercomputers.
chip maker Nvidia is planning to start building CPUs based on designs from ARM
Holdings for everything from tablet PCs to data center servers.
which announced its "Project Denver" Jan. 5 at the Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas, is the latest
manufacturer looking to take ARM chip
designs, which are dominant in the mobile phone space, into other areas. The
effort got a further boost at the show when Microsoft executives announced they
are creating a version of their upcoming Windows
8 to run on ARM-based systems
software currently runs on x86-based systems powered by processors from Intel
and Advanced Micro Devices. However, expanding the reach of Microsoft
applications to ARM-based devices would add
fuel to the push to extend such ARM-designed
processors into areas outside of mobile phones.
is looking to bring the CPUs from PCs and workstations to servers and
supercomputers, according to company officials. Nvidia President and CEO
Jen-Hsun Huang announced Project Denver during a talk at CES.
post Jan. 5
, Bill Dally, vice president and chief scientist at Nvidia, said
the goal is to create CPUs based on ARM's
designs, and integrate them on the same chip as the company's graphics
technology. Dally, who last year wrote in a blog that Moore's
Law is reaching its limit
on traditional CPUs and that its only hope of
continuing is to move from serial processing to parallel processing, said
combining ARM-designed CPUs with GPUs
(graphics processing units) is the direction the industry needs to take.
project Denver will usher in a new
era for computing by extending the performance range of the ARM
instruction-set architecture, enabling the ARM
architecture to cover a larger portion of the computing space," he wrote.
"Coupled with an NVIDIA GPU, it will provide the heterogeneous computing platform
of the future by combining a standard architecture with awesome performance and
technology already is prevalent in mobile devices, from smartphones to tablets,
Dally said. Project Denver will let
it expand into other areas.
frees PCs, workstations and servers from the hegemony and inefficiency of the
x86 architecture," Dally wrote. "Denver
provides a choice."
decision to move bring Windows to the ARM
architecture is crucial, he said.
announcement that it is bringing Windows to ultra-low power processors like ARM-based
CPUs provides the final ingredient needed to enable ARM-based
PCs based on Denver," Dally wrote.
"Along with software stacks based on Android, Symbian, and iOS, Windows for
ultra-low power processors demonstrates the huge momentum behind low-power
solutions that will ultimately propel the ARM
architecture to dominance."
top-tier OEM keeping an eye on developments in this area is Dell. In an
interview with eWEEK, Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager of
Dell's Data Center Solutions unit, said a move to alternative instruction
sets-like the ARM architecture-in the data
center holds some promise, but also faces some challenges.
greater energy efficiency to servers will be attractive to businesses, Norrod
said. However, it would mean moving software from x86 to another instruction
set is no small feat for companies, he said.
not a trivial expense," Norrod said.
ARM-designed chips do gain some traction, it
probably will be in systems designed for such environments as hyperscale
computing rather than in mainstream servers, he said. Still, Norrod expects
that the effort will see some success over the next few years, primarily with
hyperscale environments, where the companies own their own software, and within
appliances, where the software is bundled with the hardware.
and AMD have been aggressive in expanding
the role of GPUs for general-purpose computing workloads, and AMD
and Intel both at CES have launched processors that integrate the CPU and GPU
on the same piece of silicon. Those chips are based on the x86 architecture.
reportedly has licensed ARM's
, which ARM unveiled in September 2010. ARM officials said
that Cortex-A15 will offer features-including up to 16 cores, up to 1TB of
physical memory and support for virtualization-that will make it a good fit for
data center servers or networking devices.
rise of virtualization and the move toward cloud computing is driving demand
for low-power servers that can rapidly process transactional workloads. Nvidia
isn't the only company looking to push ARM
designs into servers. Calxeda-formerly
known as Smooth-Stone
-and Marvell also see a future for ARM-based
chips in systems beyond mobile devices, including servers.
companies, including Tilera and Lyric Semiconductor, are building alternatives
to Intel and AMD chips.
manufacturers look to move ARM designs up
the ladder and into the data center, Intel is trying to use its Atom processor
platform to gain traction in the mobile device space in such systems as
smartphones and tablets.