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NVIDIA Taps Nehalem to Boost Quadro GPU Performance

NVIDIA Taps Nehalem to Boost Quadro GPU Performance

Graphics leader NVIDIA is harnessing the horsepower of Intel's Nehalem chip microarchitecture as a platform to launch the 10th generation of its Quadro FX professional graphics board series.

Nehalem, which leverages Intel's QuickPath EP interconnect technology to provide closer connections between memory and processors, is designed to deliver unprecedented parallel processing performance for servers, workstations and notebooks via its support for up to two-to-eight-plus cores and up to 16+ threads.

The new wave of Nehalem-based systems will offer a variety of other capabilities that play to the Quadro graphics board's strengths, according to Scott Fitzpatrick, product line manager for NVIDIA's professional services group. For example, larger main system memory offered by the new Nehalem-based workstations is critical for the massive data sets that accompany ultra high-end graphics applications like those for product styling or medical imaging. The so-called "wider pipes" between the host and graphics systems, courtesy of the Nehalem QuickPath EP architecture, will ensure the GPU isn't starved for data while awaiting processing. Last, but not least, the dual PCI express slots on the new platforms will allow for multiple GPUs to be configured in a single system for the first time, Fitzpatrick says.

To optimize the use of multiple GPUs in a single Nehalem-based system, NVIDIA is releasing its new NVIDIA SLI Multi-OS, software that lets a single workstation host multiple operating systems running their own applications, each of which can be assigned a GPU to get full acceleration. Previously, engineers would have to set up two machines to get GPU acceleration on two different operating systems because a GPU could only work with the host OS even if two GPUs were present.

"With virtualization up to this point, you've been able to run multiple operating systems within the same system, but you haven't been able to virtualize a GPU," Fitzpatrick says. "Starting with this (configuration), you can do that."

The ability to virtualize a GPU will help users do more simultaneously and make the ROI of buying a Nehalem-based workstation more appealing, according to Alex Herrera, an analyst for Jon Peddie Research. CAD and CAE overlap would be a perfect application for NVIDIA's SLI Multi-OS, he says, with a CAD program being able to run in a Windows environment while the CAE application runs with Linux. "Now you could run Linux CAE and Windows CAD concurrently, each keeping, for example, one x86 processor busy and one NVIDIA Quadro card busy," he says.

The new Quadro FX line, comprised of the FX 380, FX 580, FX 1800, FX 3800, FX 4800 and FX 5800 range in price from $99 to $3,299. NVIDIA is positioning the FX 1800, priced at $599, as the optimal system for mid-range CAD users.

The new Quadro FX 1800 is tuned for mid-range CAD applications.

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