From CNET News.com: In his inaugural keynote--this is first Nvision conference--Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang reminded the audience that the graphics processing unit (GPU) has come a long way. In short, the GPU has evolved from the simple fixed-function graphics accelerator (e.g., the IBM 8514 that debuted in 1987) to the modern graphics chip, a computing engine capable of almost one teraflop of processing power. (A teraflop is equal to one trillion floating point operations per second.)
Huang, responding to an email query, made it clear that the GPU is complementary to the CPU, or Central Processing Unit. "It is not about replacing the CPU at all," he said. "We don't believe that replacing the CPU is a good strategy. Supplementing the CPU is far better." Intel is the world's largest supplier of CPUs.
In the keynote, Huang cited Stanford University's Folding@home program, a distributed computing project that uses about 2.6 million PCs--for a total of 288 teraflops of computing power--to study protein folding and misfolding. This is expected to deepen researchers' understanding of diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer.
Nvidia has released a version of the Folding@home program based on its CUDA development environment using more than 24,000 GPUs. Though this number represents less than 1 percent of the total processors in the Folding@home project, it provides 1.4 petaflops of performance, or nearly five times the processing power of all the CPUs in use by Folding@home. The researchers at Stanford hope that GPUs will significantly accelerate the time to discovery for the cures for many diseases.
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