by Anton Shilov
05/03/2010 | 02:14 PM
William Dally, chief scientist and senior vice president of research at Nvidia, said in a column that Moore’s Law was no longer enabling scaling of computing performance on microprocessors. In addition, Mr. Dally indicated that central processing units (CPUs) in general could no longer fulfill the demand towards high performance.
“[Moore’s Law] predicted the number of transistors on an integrated circuit would double each year (later revised to doubling every 18 months). This prediction laid the groundwork for another prediction: that doubling the number of transistors would also double the performance of CPUs every 18 months. [Moore] also projected that the amount of energy consumed by each unit of computing would decrease as the number of transistors increased. This enabled computing performance to scale up while the electrical power consumed remained constant. This power scaling, in addition to transistor scaling, is needed to scale CPU performance. But in a development that's been largely overlooked, this power scaling has ended. And as a result, the CPU scaling predicted by Moore's Law is now dead. CPU performance no longer doubles every 18 months,” said Bill Dally in a column published at Forbes.
Perhaps, performance of CPUs no longer doubles every year and a half, but, firstly, those chips are universal and very flexible, secondly, they can be manufactured in large volumes. Graphics chips, which, from time to time, outpace the Moore’s Law, quite often cannot be manufactured in large volumes because of poor yields. Moreover, although GPUs can provide higher horsepower than CPUs, they are not that universal and flexible.
Even though historically developers of central processing units were concentrating on increasing clock-speeds of chips, five years ago Advanced Micro Devices and Intel Corp. concentrated on creating more parallel multi-core microprocessors that work on moderate clock-speeds. However, the vice-president of Nvidia also claims that multi-core x86 CPUs will ultimately not solve problem with the lack of necessary computing performance.
“Building a parallel computer by connecting two to 12 conventional CPUs optimized for serial performance, an approach often called multi-core, will not work. This approach is analogous to trying to build an airplane by putting wings on a train. Conventional serial CPUs are simply too heavy (consume too much energy per instruction) to fly on parallel programs and to continue historic scaling of performance,” said Mr. Dally.
It is rather logical that Nvidia calls central processing units obsolete since it does not produce them or develop them. The big question is whether AMD and Intel give up and let Nvidia to actually capture part of the market of high-performance computing, where multi-core CPUs rule today.
“Parallel computing, is the only way to maintain the growth in computing performance that has transformed industries, economies, and human welfare throughout the world. The computing industry must seize this opportunity and avoid stagnation, by focusing software development and training on throughput computers - not on multi-core CPUs. Let's enable the future of computing to fly – not rumble along on trains with wings,” concluded the chief scientist of Nvidia.