Anandtech has some great writeups on two new NVidia technologies that I’ve frankly been a bit surprised I haven’t seen press releases on. The new NVidia Maximus and Quadro Virtual Graphics ideas both sound like big deals, but information has been scarce outside of a special demonstration event at SIGGRAPH.
First off is a new technology called “NVidia Maximus”, that voids the typical SLI-requirements of matching cards and lets you put a Quadro and a Tesla card in your computer at the same time, letting each of the two cards do what they’re best at.
So where does Maximus fit into this? By making the setup more economical. The obvious implementation of a multi-GPU workstation is to double up on Quadro cards. High-end Quadro cards are just as compute capable as Tesla cards – the Tesla C2070 is clocked exactly the same as a Quadro 6000 – but a Quadro 6000 is over $1000 more expensive than a Tesla C2070 on the open market. Since the ray-tracing task is entirely a compute task there’s no need for the second card to be a more expensive Quadro card when it could be a cheaper Tesla card, and that’s Maximus in a nutshell: using a Tesla card as a dedicated compute GPU to assist a Quadro card. It’s not necessarily groundbreaking, but for NVIDIA’s customers it would be a cheaper way to do real-time modeling and ray-tracing together.
The other technology, which I find vastly more interesting, is the NVidia Quadro Virtual Graphics Technology codenamed Monterey. This technology is a driver modification allowing you to access remote graphics resources, Quadros of course, for remote rendering. Added at the driver level like this, modifications of individual applications should be minimal, and it allows multiple users to take advantage of “cloud” like resources for visualization and rendering. Think of it as your own private OnLive cloud, running your own applications. Think of getting multi-Quadro performance on your little Laptop.
NVIDIA’s aspirations with the technology are fairly lofty as it’s an ecosystem product that ties together multiple products. Quadros would be server-side, while clients can be lower-powered Quadros (e.g. laptops) or even mobile Tegra-based products – both of which provide for the decoding of the H.264. The ultimate result would be that users could access the rendering power of Quadro cards remotely, from computers and mobile devices alike (ed: it’s the mainframe era all over again). Presumably NVIDIA has a use case in mind on the mobile side, as we’ve yet to see workstation-type software on a tablet or phone. The more immediate benefit would be the centralization of Quadro cards, allowing businesses to operate power-hungry Quadro cards in the controlled environment of a server room instead of menacing desktop users, and to establish a common pool of Quadro cards for a group of users rather than buying a Quadro card for each individual user.
This is also an important step forward for Nvidia’s growing ARM/Tegra business. Allowing mobile Tegra devices, like the newer Tablets and Mobile Phones already using Tegra, to access remote Quadro resources for heavy graphics would be a huge step forward if the bandwidth was available.
via AnandTech – SIGGRAPH 2011: NVIDIA’s Upcoming Workstation Technologies – Project Maximus & Monterey Technology.