AMD finally jumps into the HPC fray

After letting Nvidia devour the entire market for several years, AMD comes out swinging with a new card to compete with the Tesla cards. Is it too late?

For years, Nvidia has had the high performance computing (HPC) market all to itself as AMD eschewed the market. To some degree, I can see why. AMD had enough problems trying to compete with Intel on the CPU side, Nvidia on the GPU side, CEOs coming and going and profits drifting away. Overextension would not be a wise business move.

But now the company is ready. Armed with a killer new GPU technology that has gamers drooling, the company announced the AMD FirePro S10000 12GB Edition graphics card, designed for single precision and double precision performance in HPC workloads, which is exactly what those workloads demand.

The AMD FirePro S10000 12GB Edition is basically the top end of the FirePro line, which has primarily targeted workstation and high-end visualization markets, like CAD and 3D modeling. The S10000 is basically a doubled up version of the S9000: it has two processors instead of one and clocked slightly lower and double the memory bandwidth.

The result is a card with around 6 teraflops of raw performance and 1.5 teraflops of dual precision performance. That tops the performance of Nvidia's GK110 Kepler processor, which did around 1TFlop, but then again, that was a single chip. The FirePro S10000 is dual chip. And Nvidia is not sitting still. It never does.

AMD is targeting the usual HPC markets: compute/visualization servers; anything requiring double precision math like genetic sequencing, computational fluid dynamics and structural mechanics; anything needing single precision math such as seismic processing, molecular dynamics or satellite imaging; and ultra high-end workstations.

If the S10000 has a weakness, it will be in its power draw. It has a TDW of 375 watts, which is very high. The FirePro S9000 and comparable cards from Nvidia are around 225-250 TDW. That might make it a tricky sell, because that kind of power adds up. Supercomputers tend to use hundreds of these cards and when you multiply a 150 watt difference over several hundred or even thousand servers, the S10000 could prove limiting in a power-constrained data center.

The AMD FirePro S10000 with 6GB of memory is currently available for purchase while the AMD FirePro S10000 12GB Edition graphics card is slated for availability in Spring 2014.

The news comes ahead of the annual International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis, or SC as people call it for short. This year’s conference moves from the traditional location of Oregon and takes place in Salt Lake City, Utah. You'll be hearing more from the show, including the Top 500 supercomputer list.

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