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Nvidia announces move to ARM-based chips in newest threat to Intel

With the move to ARM, American graphics chip maker Nvidia could enhance its reach into the data center ecosystem. (REUTERS) (REUTERS)Premium
With the move to ARM, American graphics chip maker Nvidia could enhance its reach into the data center ecosystem. (REUTERS) (REUTERS)

  • The Nvidia Grace server processor is made on ARM architectures and makes it the largest chipmaker yet to adopt the British firm’s technologies
  • Nvidia claims Grace-based systems will deliver 10x faster performance than its current systems that use the x86 architecture designed by Intel

NEW DELHI: After companies like Apple, chipmaker Nvidia is now turning to processors made on British tech firm Advanced RISC Machines’ (ARM) technologies. The company announced its first chips made for data centers last night. The Nvidia Grace server processor is made on ARM architectures and makes it the largest chipmaker yet to adopt the British firm’s technologies, which have been threatening American giant Intel’s business worldwide.

Nvidia says the Grace chips are a result of “more than 10,000 engineering years or work" and are meant to address computing needs for natural language processing, recommendation systems and artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputing in data centers. They use ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture and will be able to analyze enormous datasets that are typical for AI supercomputing today. The company’s shares rose 2.6 percent after the announcement on Monday, while competitor Intel’s fell by almost 4 percent.

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“Using licensed Arm IP, NVIDIA has designed Grace as a CPU specifically for giant-scale AI and HPC. Coupled with the GPU (graphics processing unit) and DPU (data processing units), Grace gives us the third foundational technology for computing, and the ability to re-architect the data center to advance AI. NVIDIA is now a three-chip company," said Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia.

Chipmakers Nvidia and AMD, who have specialized in graphics processing chips for the longest time, have had their footprint in data centers for a while now. However, the two companies’ chips have mostly been used as accelerators alongside Intel’s processors. With the move to ARM, the American graphics chip maker could enhance its reach into the data center ecosystem.

Nvidia claims Grace-based systems will deliver 10x faster performance than its current systems that use the x86 architecture designed by Intel. The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) and the US department of energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory have announced plans to build Grace-based supercomputers to meet their scientific computing needs.

The move has been expected for quite a while now, after Nvidia acquired ARM for $40 billion back in September last year. The deal has been put under antitrust scrutiny by the European regulator since then, and the move to ARM may bring more stress yet. Nvidia also announced a tie-up with MediaTek to bring its RTX graphics systems to future laptops that will run on ARM chips. ARM-based processors haven’t been able to work with RTX systems so far, because they’re designed on fundamentally different computing architectures.

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