Nvidia sharpens CUDA focus

Having snagged as much of the gaming market as rival AMD will permit, Nvidia's focus appears to have shifted to its CUDA GPGPU technology - and the GTC sessions this year confirm that.

The supercomputing sector clearly forms a big part of Nvidia's future aims, with Professor Takayuki Aoki speaking to conference attendees about the Tokyo Institute of Technology's Tsubame supercomputer, powered by Nvidia's Tesla S1070 - providing 680 GPUs that can be addressed to work on massively parallel computing via Nvidia's CUDA compiler, designed to offload parallel processing tasks from the CPU onto the GPU.

The professor also discussed Tsubame's replacement, the imaginatively-named Tsubame 2.0, which will use Nvidia's Tesla 2050 to provide a 4,225 GPU cluster - providing a not-inconsiderable performance of 3 petaFLOPS.

The medical sector was also well represented, with presentations from the University of Pennsylvania on how CUDA can help speed up the automated segmentation of medical imaging; George Mason University on how CUDA has provided a twenty-fold speed boost to its simulations of intracellular calcium dynamics in cardiac arrhythmia research compared to traditional computing systems, and GE Global Research finishing with a CUDA-optimised version of its MRI reconstruction algorithm can provide nearly instantaneous results - crunching the numbers ten times faster than an 8-core CPU-based workstation.

Adobe was also at the event, talking about how integrating CUDA has boosted performance in its popular video editing suite Adobe Premier Pro. Colour correction, in particular, was discussed by computer scientist Steve Hoeg as being a major winner under CUDA, with Nvidia's GPUs processing the data 75 times faster than is possible on an Intel Nehalem-based CPU.

While showing off a system running five simultaneous video streams in Premeir Pro, Hoeg added a superimposed figure to the foreground - causing playback to stutter until the CUDA-based GPU acceleration was enabled. Stating the obvious, Hoeg told watchers "CUDA has allowed us to do a lot of things previously not possible."

Nvidia obviously isn't looking to leave the gaming market any time soon - but the sheer volume of CUDA-related presentations and demonstrations during the first day of GTC 2010 demonstrate that it's definitely looking elsewhere for the next big revenue stream.