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Nvidia CUDA : practical uses
by Damien Triolet
Published on August 17, 2007

The Tesla line
After the GeForce line intended for the general public and gamers and the Quadro conceived for graphic designers, the Tesla attacks the market in calculation power.

At first, Nvidia announced three products. The first, the Tesla C870, is a kind of GeForce 8800 GTX without video connections and therefore intended solely as an accelerator. This card moreover is equipped with 1.5 GB of video memory instead of 768 MB. Its price was set at $1299, which is reasonable because a Quadro FX 5600 also equipped with a memory of 1.5 GB costs $2999. The TDP is 170W.

The second element of the line is the Tesla D870, which takes on the concept of the Quadro Plex. There are two Tesla C870 cards in an external casing that is connected to the PC via a special PCI express card and specific cable. The TDP increases to 350W and the price jumps to $7500, which however is still a good deal compared to the Quadro Plex of equivalent Quadros offered at $17500. Two casings can fit into a bay and then together occupy 3U.

Finally, the third product in this line is a 1U rack, the Tesla S870, equipped with no less than four Tesla C870s, or four G80s and a total of 6 GB of video memory. The rack is connected to a main system in PCI Express and is already prepared for PCI Express 2.0 to boost transfers between the CPU(s) and GPUs. The TDP is 800W although Nvidia says that in practice power consumption is around 550W. This 1U rack is available for a price of $12000.

The three products are announced with availability for this month, and Nvidia also adds that a 1U rack equipped with 8 GPUs is in preparation.

As for the long term strategy of CUDA, Nvidia assures us that it will be offered on all product lines including Quadro and GeForce, and won’t just be reserved to the Tesla. CUDA should moreover soon be an integral part of general public drivers. However, in the future certain functions or those of future GPUs could be limited to the Tesla. This will notably be the case of 64 bit precision calculation on floating point numbers which will be introduced with the G92 and reserved to Tesla (and to some high end Quadros).

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