When we last discussed the NVIDIA Titan V in our preview, it was only a few weeks after its surprise launch at the 2017 Neural Information Processing Systems conference. We came away with the understanding that the Volta-based Titan V was a new breed of NVIDIA’s prosumer line of video cards, one that essentially encapsulated NVIDIA’s recent datacenter/compute achievements and how they got there. Which is to say, deep learning and neural networking has quickly become the driving force behind NVIDIA GPUs as state-of-the-art compute accelerators, now incorporating built-in hardware and software acceleration for machine learning operations. Deep learning prowess is the calling card of the Titan V and of Volta in general, and that performance is what we will be investigating today.

The most eye-catching of Volta’s new features are the new specialized processing blocks – tensor cores – but as we will see, this is very much integrated with the rest of Volta's microarchitectural improvements and surrounding software/framework support for deep learning (DL) and high performance compute (HPC). Matching up with the NVIDIA Titan V are the Titan Xp and GeForce GTX Titan X (Maxwell), with the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 also present for some tests.

NVIDIA GPU Specification Comparison
  Titan V Titan Xp GTX Titan X (Maxwell) GTX Titan
CUDA Cores 5120 3840 3072 2688
Tensor Cores 640 N/A N/A N/A
ROPs 96 96 96 48
Core Clock 1200MHz 1485MHz 1000MHz 837MHz
Boost Clock 1455MHz 1582MHz 1075MHz 876MHz
Memory Clock 1.7Gbps HBM2 11.4Gbps GDDR5X 7Gbps GDDR5 6Gbps GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 3072-bit 384-bit 384-bit 384-bit
Memory Bandwidth 653GB/sec 547GB/sec 336GB/sec 288GB/sec
L2 Cache 4.5MB 3MB 3MB 1.5MB
Single Precision 13.8 TFLOPS 12.1 TFLOPS 6.6 TFLOPS 4.7 TFLOPS
Double Precision 6.9 TFLOPS
(1/2 rate)
(1/32 rate)
(1/32 rate)
(1/3 rate)
Half Precision 27.6 TFLOPS
(2x rate)
0.19 TFLOPs
(1/64 rate)
Integer (INT8) 55.2 TOPS
(4x rate)
48.4 TOPS
(4x rate)
26.4 TOPS
(4x rate)
Tensor Performance
(Deep Learning)
Other Native INT Operations INT32, DP4A, DP2A DP4A, DP2A N/A N/A
Transistor Count 21.1B 12B 8B 7.1B
TDP 250W 250W 250W 250W
Manufacturing Process TSMC 12nm FFN TSMC 16nm FinFET TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm
Architecture Volta Pascal Maxwell 2 Kepler
Launch Date 12/07/2017 04/07/2017 08/02/2016 02/21/13
Price $2999 $1299 $999 $999

Circling back to NVIDIA’s compute endeavors, with Titan V, the Titan brand became closer than ever to workstation-class compute, featuring a high-end compute-centric GPU for the first time: the gargantuan 815 mm2 GV100. Complete with a workstation-class price tag of $3000, the Titan V doubled-down on high performance compute (HPC) and deep learning (DL) acceleration in hardware and software, while maintaining the fastest graphics performance around. Looking back, it’s a far cry from the original Kepler-based GeForce GTX Titan, a jack-of-all-trades video card that acted as enthusiast flagship with full double precision (FP64) compute for prosumers. Up until Titan V, NVIDIA’s Titan lineup more-or-less represented that design methodology, where a big GPU served as lynchpin for both compute and consumer lines.

NVIDIA Tesla/Titan Family Specification Comparison
  Tesla V100
Tesla V100
Titan V
Tesla P100
CUDA Cores 5120 5120 5120 3584
Tensor Cores 640 640 640 N/A
Core Clock ? ? 1200MHz 1328MHz
Boost Clock 1455MHz 1370MHz 1455MHz 1480MHz
Memory Clock 1.75Gbps HBM2 1.75Gbps HBM2 1.7Gbps HBM2 1.4Gbps HBM2
Memory Bus Width 4096-bit 4096-bit 3072-bit 4096-bit
Memory Bandwidth 900GB/sec 900GB/sec 653GB/sec 720GB/sec
12GB 16GB
ECC Yes Yes No Yes
L2 Cache 6MB 6MB 4.5MB 4MB
Half Precision 30 TFLOPS 28 TFLOPS 27.6 TFLOPS 21.2 TFLOPS
Single Precision 15 TFLOPS 14 TFLOPS 13.8 TFLOPS 10.6 TFLOPS
Double Precision 7.5 TFLOPS 7 TFLOPS 6.9 TFLOPS 5.3 TFLOPS
Tensor Performance
(Deep Learning)
GPU GV100 GV100 GV100 GP100
Transistor Count 21B 21B 21.1B 15.3B
TDP 300W 250W 250W 300W
Form Factor Mezzanine (SXM2) PCIe PCIe Mezzanine (SXM2)
Cooling Passive Passive Active Passive
Manufacturing Process TSMC 12nm FFN TSMC 12nm FFN TSMC 12nm FFN TSMC 16nm FinFET
Architecture Volta Volta Volta Pascal

With Volta, there's little detail of anything other than GV100 existing, outside of Tegra Xavier’s Volta iGPU, which is also part of Drive PX Pegasus. So as it stands, Volta is only available to the broader public in the form of the Titan V, though depending on the definition of ‘broader public,’ the $9000 32GB Quadro GV100 released in March might fall under that category too.  

Remaking of a Titan: Less Flagship, More Compute

Deep learning and compute aside, there are a few more factors involved in this iteration of the Titan brand. NVIDIA has less need to make a name for itself with the Titan line, of which the original GTX Titan did exactly that by invoking the NVIDIA’s K20Xs powering Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Titan supercomputer, and then setting a new high in performance (and price). Nor is there any particular competitive pressure in pricing or performance – the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti has no direct competition while the Pascal-based Titan X/Xp has carved out a $1200 price bracket above the previous $1000 mark.

Meanwhile, it’s fair to assume pushing the reticle limit (815mm2) on a new process node (12nm FFN) with new microarchitecture and additional HBM2 packaging results in poor-yielding silicon, and thus fewer options for salvage parts, especially if they needed to be validated at enterprise level (i.e. Teslas and Quadros). So a more-prosumer-than-consumer Titan V part would be the best – and only – fit, given that the gaming performance isn’t at the level of $3000. Ultimately, as we’ve discussed prior, NVIDIA seeds academics, developers, and other researchers at a lower cost-of-entry to Tesla V100s, with the feedback contributing to ecosystem support of Volta. And on that note, while Titan V’s non-ECC HBM2 and GeForce driver stack are more consumer oriented, the card still directly benefits from software support with frameworks and APIs as part of NVIDIA’s overall deep learning development efforts. Other than NVLink, Titan V’s main compute functions (FP64, FP16, tensor core) are uncrippled, which makes sense as single node Titan V’s don’t quite cannibalize sales of NVIDIA’s other compute products. If that were to change with the Quadro GV100, cryptomining will ensure that prices are kept apart.

Taking a step back, the approach with Volta doesn’t mesh with NVIDIA’s previous approaches with Pascal and others. Instead of leading with a compute-centric big die design that could naturally cascade down the consumer stack as smaller GDDR5(x) designs for enthusiast graphics, they went for a gargantuan low-yielding die with good amounts of silicon area dedicated to brand-new non-graphics functions (i.e. tensor cores). We noted that tensor cores were a calculated bet, and broadly-speaking it was the usual tradeoff between lower-margin consumer graphics performance against lower-volume compute, one that NVIDIA could easily afford. The past couple years have put NVIDIA in pole position for raw consumer graphics performance and mindshare, while years of continued involvement at the forefront of GPU accelerated deep learning have put them in prime position to implement DL-specialized hardware with corresponding software support.

And as a side note, cryptomining demand has also thrown a wrench in matters, depleting much of the current generation products for extended periods of time. In turn, the consumer market hasn’t quite been saturated with current generation video cards, leaving NVIDIA in no rush to push out a new GeForce generation. Though with all the microarchitectural improvements over Pascal, I’m sure that Volta with disabled tensor cores could be levied as a very capable gaming product if necessary – the Titan V is still king of the hill – just not at the same margins as last generation. In any case, NVIDIA quarterly financials continue to cite high Pascal GeForce sales, and like all marquee silicon designers has leapfrogging design teams, the fruits of which we might just see in a few months.

Thinking Deep with GPUs

Whatever the case may be with the next generation consumer GeForce, the big picture is that both NVIDIA and AMD have publicly stated the necessity of GPU architecture bifurcation – one for HPC/ML, and one for graphics/gaming. For NVIDIA, considering that Pascal has been around for over 2 years now, Volta is conspicuously absent from recent speculation over the next GeForce generation. In looking at the Titan V today, it almost seems that NVIDIA’s divergence is imminent. Even in the case of a Volta-based GeForce launch, the implementation of consumer Volta would be a very big hint at the future direction of GPUs, gaming and compute alike. At the very least, it would be a smaller design with far fewer tensor cores – NVIDIA's RTX technology all but guarantees that at least some tensor cores will show up in consumer parts – and with a GDDR controller, at which point it raises the question how much of Volta was optimized for tensor core operations.

As our first analysis of DL performance of any GPU, we have not yet determined a standard set of benchmark tests, particularly due to Volta’s unique tensor cores and mixed precision capability. For this Titan V deep dive, we will be utilizing Baidu DeepBench, as well as tests from NVIDIA’s Caffe2 Docker image, Stanford DAWNBench implementations, and HPE Deep Learning Benchmark Suite (DLBS).

But before we dive into the numbers, this is an opportune time to provide some context, of which there is plenty: deep learning and GPUs, the Volta microarchitecture, and the current state of benchmarking DL performance.

Deep Learning, GPUs, and NVIDIA: A Brief Overview
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  • SirCanealot - Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - link

    No overclocking benchmarks. WAT. ¬_¬ (/s)

    Thanks for the awesome, interesting write up as usual!
  • Chaitanya - Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - link

    This is more of an enterprise product for consumers so even if overclocking it enabled its something that targeted demographic is not going to use.
  • Samus - Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - link

  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - link

    He even put the "end sarcasm" tag (/s) to point out this was a joke.
  • Ticotoo - Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - link

    Where oh where are the MacOS drivers? It took 6 months to get the pascal Titan drivers.
    Hopefully soon
  • cwolf78 - Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - link

    Nobody cares? I wouldn't be surprised if support gets dropped at some point. MacOS isn't exactly going anywhere.
  • eek2121 - Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - link

    Quite a few developers and professionals use Macs. Also college students. By manufacturer market share Apple probably has the biggest share, if not then definitely in the top 5.
  • mode_13h - Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - link

    I doubt it. Linux rules the cloud, and that's where all the real horsepower is at. Lately, anyone serious about deep learning is using Nvidia on Linux. It's only 2nd-teir players, like AMD and Intel, who really stand anything to gain by supporting niche platforms like Macs and maybe even Windows/Azure.

    Once upon a time, Apple actually made a rackmount OS X server. I think that line has long since died off.
  • Freakie - Wednesday, July 4, 2018 - link

    Lol, those developers and professionals use their Macs to remote in to their compute servers, not to do any of the number crunching with.

    The idea of using a personal computer for anything except writing and debugging code is next to unheard of in an environment that requires the kind of power that these GPUs are meant to output. The machine they use for the actual computations are 99.5% of the time, a dedicated server used for nothing but to complete heavy compute tasks, usually with no graphical interface, just straight command-line.
  • philehidiot - Wednesday, July 4, 2018 - link

    If it's just a command line why bother with a GPU like this? Surely integrated graphics would do?

    (Even though this is a joke, I'm not sure I can bear the humiliation of pressing "submit")

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