Nvidia believes its Grace superchip will decimate the competition

During your recent GTC 2022 (opens in new tab) In all disclosures, NVIDIA has stripped the casings of its Grace CPU, which includes 144 Arm cores on a platform that Nvidia believes is powerful enough to topple the traditional server market.

During its initial presentations, Nvidia claimed that the Grace CPU could deliver 50% more performance in a SPEC benchmark than two 64-core AMD EPYC processors at half the power consumption. While the result provided was just a highly optimized benchmark, it did show that Nvidia isn’t messing around and adds a lot of context to Nvidia’s attempts to buy the Arm straight away. Since that attempt failed (opens in new tab)it is left the door open for others to try to buy Arm (opens in new tab).

Nvidia claims that the Grace CPU is set to become the fastest server processor on the market when it launches in early 2023. Big, bold claims! But given Nvidia’s bullish momentum, who are we to argue. At least not until the ships are independently tested against a wide range of benchmarks.

From the GTC, Tom’s Hardware did some digging (opens in new tab) and found another result, which simulates the performance of the Grace CPU versus Intel’s Ice Lake Xeon platform. If the result is accurate, even mostly accurate, then Intel and AMD are prepared to face some mega competition.

Tom discovered a benchmark comparing Grace to Intel’s Ice Lake during part of a presentation by Ian Buck, Vice President of Nvidia’s Accelerated Computing Business Unit. The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model shows that Grace is twice as fast and 2.3 times more energy efficient than Intel’s Ice Lake.

The Intel platform consisted of two Xeon 8360Y CPUs’ for a total of 72 cores and 144 threads. Nvidia claims the platform was pulling 572W in a 1-node configuration.

Of course, we have to be very cautious about relying on vendor-provided benchmarks, which are often handpicked to bring out the best of a given platform. However, if these benchmarks are accurate and can be replicated, Nvidia looks good to grab a slice of the lucrative HPC market.

Nvidia’s Grace CPU Superchip is an Arm v9 based processor with 144 cores spread over two dies fused by an NVlink of 900 GB/s. The system offers up to 1 TB/s of memory bandwidth. That’s a huge number and explains why Nvidia chose to demonstrate benchmarks with bandwidth constraints.

Overall, Nvidia is well positioned to compete in the enterprise market with Grace for years to come. This goes for Arm in general. (opens in new tab). However, the real competition is not the current generation, but the next. Intel’s Sapphire Rapids (opens in new tab) and AMD’s Genoa will be Grace’s real competitor.

The real question is, can future Arm processors become competitive gaming processors? If Arm processors make big strides in the high-performance computing market, maybe the gaming market is next…

Leave a Comment