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Nvidia Arms Its Data-Center Roadmap

May 4, 2021

Author: Mike Demler

Nvidia has laid out a four-year data-center-product roadmap that aims to accelerate Arm-CPU adoption for cloud computing. At its recent developer conference, the company announced its plan to employ unidentified future Neoverse CPUs in a new data-center processor called Grace (in honor of Grace Hopper). The initial target is HPC and training for natural-language-processing (NLP) and other extremely large neural-networks. But because those niche applications fail to justify such a huge investment, we believe Grace is just Nvidia’s first step in a long-term plan to build a server-chip presence.

Despite rumors of a new GPU dubbed Ada Lovelace (after the English mathematician) that would appear in 2H21, this year’s roadmap lacks a new GPU architecture. Instead, the company introduced two new Ampere derivatives: the A30 and A10, providing lower-power options for AI and scientific computing.

Grace will work with a new GPU simply called Ampere Next, using NVLink to deliver a big boost in CPU-GPU bandwidth compared with PCIe. Ampere Next is scheduled to begin shipping in 2022, but Grace won’t ship before 1Q23. In 2024, Nvidia plans to introduce Ampere Next Next, followed in 2025 by Grace Next. Although it declined to specify the process technologies, the 2022–2023 chips are all likely to be 5nm and the 2024–2025 chips 3nm.

Building on the data-processing unit (DPU) and smart-NIC technology it acquired with Mellanox, Nvidia announced aggressive plans for the next two BlueField SoC generations. Likely shipping in 2022, BlueField-3 will more than quadruple SPECint performance relative to BlueField-2, in addition to increasing AI performance to 1.5 trillion operations per second (TOPS). It will also double InfiniBand and Ethernet bandwidth to 400Gbps.

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