NVIDIA's Nexus, Conclusion
Earlier this year, we speculated that we'd see future versions of Tegra include CUDA support. NVIDIA didn't have a timeframe to share with us yet, but the company did confirm that CUDA capability would be built into future versions of Tegra, and that the ability to run certain types of applications extremely efficiently on the GPU is part of its long-term competitive strategy.
One of the major projects NVIDIA has revealed at the conference thus far is Nexus, a massively parallel development environment that plugs into Microsoft's Visual Studio. Nexus, according to NVIDIA, will allow programmers to simultaneously develop for heterogeneous environments. Developers will be able to use Nexus to write code intended for execution on the GPU or CPU simultaneously, and includes debugger and profiler capabilities to identify which code runs best on which execution resources.
According to NVIDIA, Nexus is capable of hardware-level debugging CUDA C, HLSL, and DirectCompute (the original G80 did not include a hardware-level debugger; this feature is only available on G84 cards and above). When profiling program execution, it's possible to view GPU and CPU events simultaneously, or drill down into a specific area. If you listen to NVIDIA, the company is quite excited about Nexus, and touts it as a major boon to developers who have long wanted such a programming interface.
"NVIDIA Nexus is going to improve programmer productivity immediately," said Tarek El Dokor at Edge 3 Technologies. "An integrated GPU and CPU development solution is something Edge 3 has needed for a long time. The fact that it’s integrated into the Visual Studio development environment drastically reduces the learning curve."
Tegra doesn't hook into NVIDIA's plans for Fermi at the moment, but the more efficient an architecture the company can build, the less it needs to rely on the strength of a more conventional CPU, x86-compatible or not. We're potentially at least two-to-three generations away from a point where NVIDIA might attempt to combine conventional processing with GPU capabilities on a single die, but if Intel and AMD can do it from the CPU side, NVIDIA could possibly pull an equivalent trick starting in the opposite corner.
NVIDIA has gone out of its way to showcase some of the cooler and more interesting software and hardware developments it has coming down the pipeline. The company had a handful of Fermi cards either in-use or on display, but there's very little chance that we'll see the card in 2009; a Q1/Q2 launch is far more likely. NVIDIA also wasn't willing to discuss launch speeds, whether or not desktop cards would be full versions of the architecture with all cores enabled, or how the card would perform against then-current products from ATI.
If it leaves the gate in top condition, Fermi will offer developers a far more advanced and capable platform than either G80 or GT200 ever did.