In 2007, Nvidia quietly began work on Project Denver, starting a long hard climb toward being a supplier of general-purpose microprocessors. At CES in 2011 it revealed the goal of that program was to create a soup-to-nuts family of SoCs serving everything from laptops to supercomputers.
At its annual Graphics Technology Conference (GTC) here Tuesday (March 19) Nvidia revealed the first commercial chip it expects to emerge from that program. The chip, Parker, will arrive in 2015 packing a 2014 graphics core called Maxwell and a new 64-bit custom ARM core.
Details are still scarce, but what Nvidia did share shines just a little light on the microprocessor road map for the industry, enough to give me pause about the future of computing.
Nvidia’s next big move is Logan. This Tegra 5 SoC will put a Kepler-class Nvidia graphics processor in a chip aimed at smartphones and tablets. It will be the first ARM-based mobile SOC to support its Cuda software environment for running general purpose graphics (GPGPU) programs. Previously, Cuda worked in PCs and servers that used an x86 host.
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Nvidia chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang shows the road to Parker, the first Project Denver chip.
To some extent the part plays catch up with its competitors that already provide similar features using OpenCL, said Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst with The Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.).
Nvidia demonstrated it already has Cuda running on a new board called Kayla that sports a Kepler graphics chip and Tegra 3 ARM processor. Krewell called Kayla “a science experiment and a software development platform” to seed programming work for Logan which will sample this year and be in production in 2014.