The wait is over. For the first time since January 2010 (or November 2009, depends on how you count), NVIDIA is introducing a new GPU architecture, codenamed Kepler. The chips are identified as the GK1xx family (GK104 and GK107 are being launched today), and in this article we'll take a deep dive through the architecture which couple of legendary developers said it reminds them of G80.No Kepler in 2011 - What Went Wrong?
First and foremost, we have to start with the reason why there was no Kepler architecture in 2011, as NVIDIA announced on the GPU Technology Conference 2010. As you can see in the picture below, the public roadmap clearly showed Kepler arriving in 2011 and Maxell following in 2013.
On this image, we do not agree with NVIDIA on 2007 timing for the Tesla architecture launch. Tesla, or G80 as it is more known was launched and made available in November 2006. It is true that NVIDIA launched the Tesla GPGPU part in 2007, so it all depends on how you count (silicon availability or public announcement). Tesla architecture was used for G80, G90 and GT200 generation of products spanning through five years (if we count mobile parts).
Then, NVIDIA presented Fermi architecture at the inaugural GPU Technology Conference with a prototype board, revealing architectural details on supercomputing conference in late fourth quarter. However, the actual availability of GeForce did not arrive until the end of first quarter of 2010, with Quadro and Tesla professional products following suit in second and third quarter 2010.
NVIDIA faced issues with the troubled birth of GF100 i.e. Fermi made a dent in the schedule, and engineers were then taken by the work on a Fermi-refresh for 2011. The refresh was known as GF11x and all of that bought time for NVIDIA to get Kepler ready for launch in the fourth quarter of 2011. Bear in mind that the company had silicon running in the office for better part of second half of 2011, but spent time optimizing the silicon to reduce the power consumption as low as possible.
The new company mantra is Performance/Watt (finally) and in this article, you'll see the amount of changes NVIDIA made in order to make that mantra stick. Unfortunately, the availability of 28nm process just wasn't there and while some of the leaked chips we saw were manufactured in 39th, 41st and 44th week of 2011 - the parts simply weren't ready for prime time.
All those delays, or we should simply say - "when it's done" approach caused numerous stories online (we don't see Apple being crucified for their delays, while AMD, Intel and NVIDIA are constantly under the looking glass). In our on and off the record conversations with company executives, engineers and PR staff, it was interesting to see the company attitude changing, especially after AMD introduced Southern Islands, their first true GPGPU architecture.March 22, 2012 - the arrival of Kepler
There is a pretty good reason why NVIDIA delayed the launch of hard silicon for as long as possible and today's articles will explain why. There are two parts available today, the GK104 (GeForce GTX 680) and GK107 (GeForce GT 640M LE, GT 640M, GT 650M, GTX 660M). In our talks with NVIDIA insiders, we were told that there are two more ASICs coming in the next couple of months, or should we say weeks.
The interesting bit is that we were told that next generation is on track, even though we doubt we are going to see Maxwell before the end of 2013. Reasons for that have nothing to do with NVIDIA, but rather with its manufacturing partners and the process node selected for it.
Without further ado, lets dig into this:The second name on this slide bears a lot of importance, so hit the next page
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