The knives are out for cloud gaming as Nvidia flashes blade-based box packing 40 RTX GPUs

It might actually be able to run Crysis this time... maybe

GTC Nvidia used this week's GPU Technology Conference in San Jose to reveal the most powerful GPU box that its R&D labs have cooked up.

The RTX Blade Server uses blade configuration to squeeze up to 40 Turing GPUs into an 8U enclosure, for as many as 184,320 CUDA cores. Multiple enclosures can be combined into a "pod", with up to 1,280 GPUs working as a single system.

Nvidia specialises in graphics accelerators - enterprise servers are a relatively new undertaking. It unveiled the first such reference design in 2016 with DGX-1 – a 3U enclosure packing eight Tesla P100 GPUs.

Last year, it followed up with DGX-2, sporting a range of updated silicon with NVlink interconnect.

The RTX Blade Server is an altogether different beast: rather than being positioned as a tool for science, it's intended for more traditional tasks in 3D rendering and cloud gaming.

Obviously, the server features RTX-series GPUs – the ones that introduced ray tracing support – namely Quadro RTX 6000 and RTX 8000. Storage and networking interconnect is supplied by Mellanox, which Nvidia is acquiring in a deal worth $6.9bn.

The company said this setup will enable users to render realistic-looking 3D images in real-time; it will provide software stacks designed for specific use cases, including Optix RTX rendering, gaming, VR and AR.

The DGX systems were unveiled at a time when AI research was all the rage, but the market has since changed direction, with cloud gaming set to get its own hype cycle. In a way, cloud gaming is the holy grail of digital entertainment, allowing customers to play the latest games with all settings turned to 11 without having to spend tons of cash on enthusiast-level hardware.

"We've optimised RTX servers for use by cloud gaming operators, enabling them to render and stream games at the performance levels of GeForce RTX 2080 GPUs to any client device," Bob Pette, Nvidia's veep for Professional Visualisation, said on the company's blog.

Companies currently working on cloud gaming platforms include AWS, Google, Electronic Arts and French startup Blade, to name a few.

Nvidia said that later this year, mobile operators Softbank in Japan and LG Uplus in Korea will be among the first to deploy RTX-based cloud gaming services.

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