Friday, September 19, 2008

Parallel Computing: Both CPU and GPU Are Doomed

Tim Sweeny

A few weeks after I wrote Heralding The Impending Death of the CPU, Tim Sweeney, the renowned founder of Epics Games and pioneering game engine designer, predicts the impending fall of the GPU. In an interview titled Twilight of the GPU: an epic interview with Tim Sweeney, published by Ars Technica last Saturday, the same day hurricane Ike ripped Texas a new one, Sweeny does the same to the future of graphics processors. Here is something that Sweeny said that caught my attention:
In the next console generation you could have consoles consist of a single non-commodity chip. It could be a general processor, whether it evolved from a past CPU architecture or GPU architecture, and it could potentially run everything—the graphics, the AI, sound, and all these systems in an entirely homogeneous manner. That's a very interesting prospect, because it could dramatically simplify the toolset and the processes for creating software.
This is exactly what I have been saying for a long time. Homogeneity and universality are the names of the new game. I may not agree with Sweeny on what development tools we will use in the future (he seems to be married to the old C, C++ linguistic approach), but he is absolutely correct about the future of parallel processors.


This brings me to thinking about Nvidia. Unlike Intel and AMD, Nvidia’s financial future is not tied to the CPU. The CPU will soon join the vacuum tube and the buggy whip in the heap of obsolete technologies. The future of parallel computing is in vector processing and, as we all know, Nvidia’s GPUs are vector processors. Sure, GPUs are not universal parallel processors because they use an SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) configuration. However, this is a problem that Nvidia will eventually correct by switching over to a pure MIMD (multiple instruction, multiple data) vector architecture. In my opinion, Nvidia is ideally positioned to dominate the processor industry in the decades to come. That is, assuming its leadership is shrewd enough to see and heed the writings on the wall.

PS. As an aside, a little over a month ago, Tim wrote a couple of comments to my article Larrabee: Intel's Hideous Heterogeneous Beast.

Related Articles:

Parallel Computing: The Fourth Crisis
Radical Future of Computing, Part II
Heralding the Impending Death of the CPU
Transforming the TILE64 into a Kick-Ass Parallel Machine
How to Solve the Parallel Programming Crisis


234 said...

I definately think you are right. However, I do not think that Intel will let anyone take their leader position on the CPU market from them. I rather think that Nvidia will have to completely rethink their strategy if they want to stay in business. The next few years will be interesting to watch.

Bert Bulaba

Louis Savain said...


You may have a point in that Intel may be tempted to use its superior marketing muscle to keep a better product from competing fairly. However, I would point out that the computer industry is global. There are countries (e.g., China, Japan, India and Singapore) where the governments actively participate in securing a favorable market for their home-grown technologies. Should one of those countries develop a revolutionary parallel processor that solves the parallel programming crisis, you can be certain that it would have little trouble in quickly gaining global market share. Intel's marketing prowess in the U.S. will not be as effective overseas. And now that global trade is becoming freer, foreign processor vendors will find it easy to secure a market for their products in the U.S.

koza said...

Take a look at this:

Unknown said...

"In the next console generation you could have consoles consist of a single non-commodity chip."

A single chip that does all the processing? That sounds like the definition of a CPU. The concept of a CPU will not die, but the implementation will evolve in one way or another.