While we’re basking in the glow of a fresh set of benchmarks on a newly-revealed architecture, Nvidia and AMD are deep into the next one—and the one after that. Nvidia’s next next architecture, it appears, will be called Hopper, according to word from a reliable leaker on Twitter.
Nvidia We’re on Turing right now, and we’ve known for a while that the next architecture will likely be called Ampere, named for French physicist André-Marie Ampere (and the unit of electrical measurement). Ampere is set to release sometime in 2020 according to current rumors.
After that will come Hopper, named for American computer scientist Grace Hopper. Hopper programmed the Mark I computer during World War II and led the team that created the first machine-language compiler, which directly preceded the creation of COBOL, one of the first and longest-lasting high-level computer-programming languages.
According to Twitter user @kopite7kimi (via TechPowerUp), the name change isn’t the only thing that’ll be new about the Hopper chips. According to the user, Hopper will introduce MCM (Multi-Chip Module) GPU packages. Nvidia has been researching MCM architectures for some time.
A primer on MCM GPUs
Here’s the short version of how they theoretically work: Single-chip GPUs, or “monolithic” GPUs have a theoretical upper limit. Transistors can only shrink so far; the further you shrink them, the harder it becomes to get usable yields on the “wafers” that processors are manufactured into.
An MCM architecture breaks the work up into smaller, less-complex GPU Modules, or GPMs, that are easier to manufacture and would likely produce higher yields—and thus less waste and maybe even cost improvements. In a paper published in June 2017, Nvidia proposed an MCM GPU design that is 45.5% faster than the largest implementable (i.e. realistically manufacturable) GPU and within 10% of an optimal hypothetical—and “unbuildable” per Nvidia—monolithic GPU. In this paper, Nvidia also found that its optimized MCM was 27% faster than a multi-GPU system with the same total number of streaming multi-processors and the same amount of DRAM bandwidth.
This is rumor and conjecture right now, but it all seems like the sensible next step considering that transistors physically cannot get much smaller until we master carbon nanotubes. Hopper is far off in the future; not exactly a reason to hold off on picking up a new GPU. But it is something to look forward to in the coming years.