Nvidia's new Pascal GPUs can give smart answers

Nvidia's new Tesla P4 and P40 GPUs are targeted at deep learning

Autonomous cars need a new kind of horsepower to identify objects, avoid obstacles and change lanes. There's a good chance that will come from graphics processors in data centers or even the trunks of cars.

With this scenario in mind, Nvidia has built two new GPUs -- the Tesla P4 and P40 -- based on the Pascal architecture and designed for servers or computers that will help drive autonomous cars. In recent years, Tesla GPUs have been targeted at supercomputing, but they are now being tweaked for deep-learning systems that aid in correlation and classification of data.

"Deep learning" typically refers to a class of algorithmic techniques based on highly connected neural networks -- systems of nodes with weighted interconnections among them.

It's all part of a general trend: as more data is transmitted to the cloud via all sorts of systems and devices, it passes through deep-learning systems for answers, context and insights.

For example, Facebook and Google have built deep-learning systems around GPUs for image recognition and natural language processing. Meanwhile, Nvidia says Baidu's Deep Speech 2 speech recognition platform is built around its Tesla GPUs.

The new Teslas have the horsepower to be regular GPUs. The P40 has 3,840 CUDA cores, offers 12 teraflops of single-precision performance, has 24GB of GDDR5 memory and draws 250 watts of power. The P4 has 2,560 cores, delivers 5.5 teraflops of single-precision performance, has 8GB of GDDR5 memory, and draws up to 75 watts of power.

Additional deep-learning features have been slapped on the GPUs. Speedy GPUs usually boast double-precision performance for more accurate calculations, but the new Teslas also handle low-level calculations. Each core processes a chunk of information; these blocks of data can be stringed together in order to interpret information and infer the answers to questions about, for example, what objects are included in images, or what words are being spoken by people who are talking to each other.

Deep-learning systems rely on such low-level calculations for inferencing mostly because double-precision calculations -- which would deliver more accurate results but require more processing power -- would slow down GPUs.

Nvidia earlier this year released the Tesla P100, which is faster than the upcoming P4 and P40. The P100 is aimed at high-end servers and used to fine-tune deep-learning neural networks.

The new Tesla P4 and P40 GPUs have low-level integer and floating point-processing for deep learning and can also be used for inferencing and approximation at a local level. The idea is that certain types of systems and cars can't always be connected to the cloud, and will have to do processing locally.

Low-level processing for approximations is also being added by Intel to its upcoming chip called Knights Mill, which is also designed for deep learning.

The Tesla P4 and P40 succeed the Tesla M4 and M40, which were released last year for graphics processing and virtualization. The new GPUs will be able to do those things as well.

The Tesla P40 will ship in October, while the P4 will ship in November. The GPUs will be available in servers from Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lenovo, Quanta, Wistron, Inventec and Inspur. The server vendors will decide the price of the GPUs.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags gpuAInvidiaA.I.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?