History of GPGPU architectures
Post on 28-10-2013 by GJvdBraak Tags: GPU, architecture

As daylight saving time has ended, days get shorter and evenings get longer, more time becomes available for some reading by the fireplace. In case you would like to read up on GPU architectures, you may find an introduction on GPGPU architectures of the last couple of years below.

Programmable GPU architectures have been around for about seven years now. In November 2006 NVIDIA launched its first fully programmable GPU architecture, the G80 based GeForce 8800. In June 2008 a major revision was introduced, the GT200. This first architecture is described in detail in IEEE Micro volume 28, issue 2 (March-April 2008). The NVIDIA Tesla: A Unified Graphics and Computing Architecture article describes not only the history of NVIDIA GPUs from dedicated graphic accelerators to a unified architecture suitable for GPGPU workloads, but also the CUDA programming model. Many architecture details of the GT200 have been revealed by benchmarks in the paper Demystifying GPU Microarchitecture through Microbenchmarking (PDF).

In 2010 NVIDIA’s launched its next big architecture: Fermi. Many details are described in the Fermi White paper and in the AnandTech article NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470. Later that year an update of the Fermi architecture, oriented more at gaming rather than GPGPU compute, was introduced, the GF104 in the GeForce GTX 460. More (architecture) details are described by AnandTech in NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460.

The latest GPGPU architecture by NVIDIA, Kepler, was released in 2012. Another whitepaper by NVIDIA describes this GK110 architecture used in the Tesla K20 GPGPU compute card. Also a gaming version of Kepler has been made: the GK104 used in the GeForce GTX 680. A couple of articles on AnandTech describe the architecture in more detail: the GK104 and the GK110.

For the history of AMD’s programmable GPGPU architecture the best place to start is the AMD Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture Whitepaper. It describes the evolution of AMD GPUs from fixed function GPUs to the programmable VLIW5 and VLIW4 GPUs and finally the GCN architecture. Again AnandTech gives some nice insights in the transition from VLIW5 to VLIW4 in the article AMD’s Radeon HD6970 & Radeon HD 6950, and from VLIW to GCN in AMD’s Graphics Core Next Preview.