Nvidia: Denver Is Custom ARMv8 64-Bit Processor with Secret Sauce

Nvidia Expects Denver Microprocessor to Be Competitive in ARM Servers

by Anton Shilov
11/08/2012 | 09:56 PM

Nvidia Corp. has started to disclose additional information about its project Denver central processing unit, which will differentiate it from other ARM partners. According to the company, Denver is compatible with 64-bit ARMv8 architecture, yet sports certain “secret sauce” that is expected to make it better than the rivals.


“Project Denver is a 64-bit processor, it is a full-custom ARMv8 64-bit processor with some exciting secret sauce and we have not revealed much about it. There are no 64 bits processors shipping today, as you know. ARMv8 [cores] was just announced. […] I guess, the only thing I could tell you is Denver is going great,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive officer of Nvidia, during quarterly conference call with financial analysts.

Although last year Nvidia vowed to reveal more information about its project Denver microprocessor initiative towards the end of this year, Nvidia did not present anything at ARM TechCon in October this year, where ARM introduced its Cortex-A50 cores compatible with ARMv8 instructions. By contrast, companies like AMD, Broadcom, Calxeda, Samsung and others expressed commitment to develop server-class server system-on-chips with the appropriate Cortex-A53 and A57 cores.

At present, the only thing clear about Nvidia Denver is that it is not based on pure Cortex-A50 cores, but on custom Nvidia-developed cores which are presumably more advanced. In addition, Mr. Huang reemphasized that Denver will be also positioned for servers, though he admitted that it would take some time before ARM will get popular in servers in general. Interestingly, but the head of Nvidia did not mention another interesting project that is developed by Nvidia, project Boulder, which is projected to take on AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon high-performance server chips.

“We are big believers in ARM-based servers. […] We have been working on project Denver for two years now, so we are going to have custom ARM designs for this market,” said Mr. Huang in a conversation with the Tech Trader Daily blog.

Known under the internal code-name "project Denver, the Nvidia initiative includes an Nvidia CPU running the ARM instruction set, which will be fully integrated on the same chip as the Nvidia GPU. The hybrid processors which will have both 64-bit ARMv8-compatible general-purpose cores as well as Nvidia's custom compute cores known as stream processors will be aimed at various market segments, most importantly at high-performance computing and data center servers. Nvidia's chief executive does not exclude the chips from entering very energy-efficient high throughput servers. Since technologies developed within project Denver are universal, they will eventually span across the whole lineup of Nvidia products, from Tegra to GeForce to Quadro to Tesla. Obviously, Denver-derivatives may power next-generation game consoles as well.