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AMD Develops Compute GPUs

March 24, 2020

Author: Linley Gwennap

On the heels of a big win in the El Capitan supercomputer, AMD disclosed a new line of GPUs that enabled this win by specifically targeting AI and high-performance computing (HPC). The GPUs, called CDNA, will leverage the current RDNA architecture while adding new capabilities. The current models already have strong double- and single-precision floating-point performance for HPC, so the changes are likely to focus on smaller data types for AI. At its recent Financial Analyst Day, the company disclosed that the first CDNA product will appear later this year.

El Capitan is the most powerful of the three exascale supercomputers that the US Department of Energy (DOE) plans to deploy during the next few years and will likely be the world’s highest-performance system. Like the earlier Frontier supercomputer, El Capitan will employ both AMD CPUs and AMD GPUs, taking advantage of a future Infinity Fabric design that directly couples them. The third system, Aurora, combines Intel Xeon processors and that company’s future Xe GPU. This move to single-vendor CPU+GPU combinations leaves Nvidia, which dominates the world’s top supercomputers, completely out of the picture for these big American systems.

Given that El Capitan is three years from deployment, AMD and the DOE offered few design details. But combined with AMD’s new roadmap disclosures, we can piece together some of the puzzle. The company confirmed that El Capitan will feature a fourth-generation Epyc processor, code-named Genoa, implemented in 5nm technology. The system will likely include the second-generation CDNA GPU. Both Genoa and CDNA 2 implement a third-generation Infinity Fabric that coherently couples the CPU with up to four GPUs. We expect CDNA 2 will use AMD’s future “X3D” packaging technology to combine multiple chiplets with four HBM stacks on a single substrate.

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