Nvidia's new Grace CPU is designed for AI-powered supercomputers
Nvidia's newest Central Processing Unit (CPU) has been unveiled, and it's quite a chip: offering a 10x performance leap over current solutions, it's focused on artificial intelligence calculations and natural language processing (NLP).
The CPU is called Grace, after US computer programming pioneer Grace Hopper, and it's destined for high-end data centers and supercomputers rather than the average desktop. Nvidia says it will be running supercomputers at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US in the coming years.
Built to analyze huge datasets and process information at super-fast speeds, the Grace CPU is based on Arm architecture, following Nvidia's acquisition of chipset designer Arm last year. The chip will work in tandem with Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs) and will start appearing in machines in 2023.
The Grace CPU is going to be particularly adept at handling deep-learning models, where vast amounts of data need to be crunched and compared to train AI's to make the right decisions more of the time – whether that's recognizing your voice when you talk to your smart speaker or helping a self-driving car learn what a traffic light looks like.
It's another shot across the bows of Intel, which develops the Xeon chip for the same kind of data center use cases that Grace is now targeting. Apple recently switched its computers to its own custom chips rather than Intel silicon, and this could be another area where Intel starts to lose market share.
And it's a hugely profitable market, too – the need for cloud computing centers is growing and growing, as is the demand for AI-powered systems that businesses and scientists can tap into.
"NVIDIA's novel Grace CPU allows us to converge AI technologies and classic supercomputing for solving some of the hardest problems in computational science," said CSCS Director Professor Thomas Schulthess in a press statement. "We are excited to make the new Nvidia CPU available for our users in Switzerland and globally for processing and analyzing massive and complex scientific datasets."
According to Nvidia, the combination of the Grace CPU with Nvidia's latest GPUs is going to achieve a 30x higher aggregate bandwidth compared with the best servers today – so that's a lot more data that can be shifted at once. Energy efficiency should improve too.
While you won't be ordering the Grace CPU for your next self-built PC, you may well benefit from it in the coming years, as it finds a place in more data centers and more powerful supercomputers across the world.