NVIDIA CEO: You Bring the Devices, We’ll Bring the Graphics

by Brian Caulfield

Enterprise computing is in a state of upheaval, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang told a standing-room only crowd of hundreds at the annual RTT Excite conference in Munich, sponsored by RTT, a leading company in high-end 3D visualization.

Employees are ditching company-issued black-and-grey boxes for their own devices. They’re swapping heavy laptops and deskbound workstations for tablets and smartphones and tapping into computing resources that live in the cloud rather than underneath their desk.

The solution: break the link between data and devices with tools that give employees the resources they need, whatever device they’re using, with NVIDIA GRID.

Close to Heaven

Jen-Hsun – known for his love of cars – seemed right at home at a conference packed with industrial designers, many from the world’s biggest carmakers.

“It’s great to be at Excite, surrounded by visual computing, surrounded by beautiful cars, surrounded by GPUs,” Jen-Hsun quipped. “It feels pretty close to heaven.”

The RTT Excite exhibit hall was a window into a future where visual computing is everywhere.  By one estimate, there were nearly 130,000 GPU cores at RTT Excite, powering a sea of high-definition displays showcasing the rising importance of visual computing across the design, development, marketing and sales of new products, from an upcoming BMW electric car to a tailored Brioni suit.

A Graphics Card That Lives in the Cloud

To deliver the graphics power needed to design and market all of these products on any device, NVIDIA has introduced a new product we call GRID.

Think of GRID as a graphics card that contains a whole bunch of other graphics cards that live on the network, rather than being attached to any device. The result: cutting edge graphics can be poured into a MacBook Air, a netbook, an iPad. The device no longer matters.

And employees – who already use cloud-based consumer services – will get it, immediately. It’s like Netflix, except it’s interactive thanks to technology that lets GRID respond to data at the speed of a keystroke.

Jen-Hsun shared a trio of demos with his audience. He showed how a single GRID Visual Computing Appliance (VCA) can deliver multiple sessions of powerful workstation-class software — Adobe Premiere, 3DSMax, and DeltaGen –to a single MacBook.

On the flip side, he showed how VCA can give a single worker instant access to multiple GPUs to tackle the most demanding jobs. In this demo, DeltaGen tapped into the power of 6 GPUs to perform real-time, interactive ray-tracing.

Last, he demonstrated how GRID can be used to transform the retail experience, showing how rich, immersive car buying applications can be accessed from the showroom floor from an iPad.

ARM’ed and Dangerous

While GRID puts visual computing muscle in the cloud, Tegra puts that power as close to as many of the world’s display as possible.

We all know the PC industry is struggling, but the latest news was still shocking. PC shipments fell 14% during the first quarter, amid a spate of bleak headlines about the fortunes of the industry’s giants, according to IDC. But in this shift – like any big shift – there’s opportunity.

That’s why NVIDIA turned itself inside out several years ago to create an SOC business with Tegra, a mobile processor designed to bring visual computing everywhere.

While the PC, which has dominated the industry for decades, is stumbling, visual computing is becoming more ubiquitous than ever. By 2015, there will be nearly 5 billion HD displays on the planet.

Energy-efficient, mobile processors are powering more and more of those displays: each year more ARM processors are shipped than all of the x86 processors shipped since the beginning of mankind.

The architecture will extend far beyond just handsets. And specifically into one platform ripe for more computing power: our cars.

Keeping up with phones
More than handsets: Tegra will transform a wide array of devices, including cars.

Cars Keeping Up With Phones

Just imagine if the interfaces in our cars could keep pace with the innovations in our smartphones. We built the Visual Computing Module to make that happen, giving automakers access to our visual computing capabilities and the rich ARM ecosystem.

We’re taking this further with Jetson, a new development kit we’ve put into the hands of automakers that includes a discrete GPU, modular I/O breakout boards and a touchscreen display.

Jetson lets automakers easily create and test automotive and computer-vision applications, from in-vehicle infotainment to advanced driver assist systems that rival the stuff of science fiction.

Photos: Susanna Tatar