Nvidia is intent on shoving its way into CPUs, one way or another. Today the supermassive GPU company announced it will create a CPU design and engineering group in Israel, and is intent on hiring hundreds of engineers for the job.
With its ongoing purchase of chip designer Arm, you could say Nvidia has a keen interest in CPU development, and even for a GPU company such as Nvidia, that's not particularly surprising. The CPU is a key component of Nvidia's datacentre aspirations, where general-purpose processing smarts are very much still required, even if the overall system requires GPU to do most of the computational heavy-lifting.
Nvidia's DGX Station A100 (opens in new tab), for example, connects four Nvidia A100 GPUs to AMD's 7742 EPYC server chip.
There's also Grace (opens in new tab), Nvidia's first datacentre CPU. This Arm-based processor will find its way into Nvidia-powered supercomputers for the Swiss Supercomputer Center and US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory.
So for massive computing projects, a CPU is key. And I'm sure Nvidia would love to cut other companies, especially a competitor like AMD, out of its server rack. Nvidia's purchase of Mellanox helped to do just that, and its ongoing attempts to purchase Arm may eventually be to its benefit, too.
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That doesn't mean we'll see Nvidia roll out a lineup of gaming CPUs anytime soon, however. Nvidia admits it has its work cut out for it competing with Intel and AMD's x86 processors in any form, and actually used this as a reason why it should be allowed to buy Arm (opens in new tab).
Intel's CEO Pat Gelsinger also appeared unphased (opens in new tab) by Nvidia's Grace chip when it first appeared, saying "the idea of CPUs is Intel's provenance", and that it was "on the offense, not the defense going forward."
Though perhaps Nvidia hopes to compete with Intel and AMD for something: great engineers. It's a constant tussle for staff between these major chipmaking companies, and Intel has a large presence in Israel. Many of its cutting-edge engineering teams are based in the country, and I'm sure Nvidia would love to snap-up some top-notch talent from under its nose.
"Israel, with its unique wealth of talent, is a key player in the global tech ecosystem, and we are excited to be creating a new CPU group here," Nvidia's CTO, Michael Kagan, says (opens in new tab) (via Videocardz (opens in new tab)). "We look forward to further growing our local R&D activities both in this area and in our extensive work supporting the local ecosystem through unique programs for startups and developers."
Though it's largely been Intel doing the big ticket hiring as of late. The company recently hired the engineer that led Apple's transition from Intel-based Macs to Apple-powered ones (opens in new tab), in what is sure to have been a big blow to Apple and its own CPU efforts.