Unleash AI Power: A Guide to GPU Selection

Choosing the right GPU for AI computing requires careful consideration. Here are some key factors to keep in mind...

Unleash AI Power: A Guide to GPU Selection
Written by
Youssef El Manssouri
Published on
Jun 11, 2024
Read time
7 mins

In the rapidly evolving world of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) have emerged as a critical component. GPUs, originally designed to accelerate the rendering of 3D graphics, have proven to be highly effective in performing the complex mathematical computations required in AI workloads.

Their parallel processing capabilities allow them to handle thousands of tasks simultaneously, making them significantly faster than traditional Central Processing Units (CPUs) for AI computations.

Choosing the right GPU for AI computing, however, requires careful consideration. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

  1. Compute Capability: This refers to the GPU’s ability to perform calculations. Higher compute capability means the GPU can process more data in less time, which is crucial for AI workloads.
  2. Memory: AI models often require large amounts of memory to store data during computations. Therefore, a GPU with more memory can handle larger models and datasets.
  3. Power Efficiency: GPUs can consume a lot of power, leading to higher operating costs. Therefore, it’s essential to consider the power efficiency of a GPU.
  4. Software Compatibility: Ensure the GPU is compatible with the software you plan to use for your AI workloads. Some software frameworks are optimized for specific GPUs.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into these and other factors and guide you in making the best choice for your needs.

GPU Architecture

GPU card with fans

In AI computing, several types of GPU architectures are available in the market, each designed to cater to specific AI workloads. Some prominent GPU architectures include NVIDIA Volta, NVIDIA Ampere, and NVIDIA Turing, which are optimized for AI and high-performance computing (HPC) applications.

NVIDIA Volta Architecture

The NVIDIA Volta architecture is designed for AI and HPC, featuring Tensor Core GPU architecture optimized for AI workloads. With over 21 billion transistors, Volta is the most powerful GPU architecture, pairing NVIDIA® CUDA® and Tensor Cores to deliver exceptional AI computing performance.

NVIDIA Ampere Architecture

The NVIDIA Ampere architecture is also designed for AI and HPC in the modern data center, featuring innovations such as Tensor Float 32 (TF32) and Multi-Instance GPU (MIG) technology.

It is crafted with 54 billion transistors and provides unmatched acceleration at every scale, making it suitable for solving the world’s most important scientific, industrial, and business challenges with AI and HPC.

NVIDIA Turing Architecture

NVIDIA Turing GPUs are armed with Tensor Cores that deliver AI computing horsepower, enabling them to run powerful AI algorithms in real time to create crisp, clear, lifelike images.

The Turing architecture represents a significant leap forward, providing major advances in efficiency and performance for PC gaming, professional graphics applications, and deep learning inferencing.

These GPU architectures are optimized for parallel processing and can handle multiple tasks simultaneously, making them faster at graphical and mathematical workloads than CPUs.

They are essential for accelerating computational processes for deep learning and are specifically designed to meet the demands of modern AI infrastructure.


Modern circuit board close up

GPUs utilize various types of memory to optimize performance and handle specific tasks. Some of the different types of memory available in GPUs include:

  1. Register Memory: This refers to the fastest type of memory available on a GPU. Each thread executing on the GPU has its own private set of registers, which hold frequently accessed data during computations. However, the amount of register memory is limited, and overuse can lead to reduced parallelism and performance. Therefore, efficient use of register memory is crucial for optimizing GPU performance in AI workloads.
  2. Global Memory: This is the largest type of memory available on a GPU and is accessible by all threads in a GPU. It is used for storing data that doesn’t fit into shared or local memory, such as large datasets in AI computations. However, accessing global memory is slower than other types like shared or register memory. Therefore, optimizing global memory use is crucial for improving the performance of AI workloads on GPUs.
  3. Shared Memory: This type of memory is shared among threads within the same block. This memory is faster than global memory and is used for data accessed frequently by different threads. However, its size is limited, and careful management is required to avoid conflicts and ensure efficient data access. Thus, the strategic use of shared memory can significantly enhance the performance of AI computations on GPUs.
  4. Local Memory: Local memory is a type of memory that is private to each thread. Unlike shared memory, which is shared among threads within the same block, local memory is not shared. It is used when the register and shared memory are insufficient. However, it’s important to note that access to local memory is slower than register and shared memory, and therefore, its usage should be minimized for optimal performance in AI computations.
  5. Constant Memory: Constant memory in GPU computing is a special type of read-only memory that is accessible by all threads in a GPU. It is used for storing data that remains constant throughout the execution of a kernel. This memory type is cached, and when all threads read the same location, it can be as fast as a register. However, if threads read different locations, the access time can be similar to global memory, which is slower.
  6. Texture Memory: Texture memory is a specialized type of read-only memory designed for handling texture operations in graphics rendering. However, in the context of AI computing, it can be used to cache frequently accessed data. This memory type is optimized for 2D spatial locality, making it efficient when threads read values in close proximity to each other. However, it’s less efficient for non-spatial data access patterns, and its usage should be tailored to specific application requirements.

These different types of memory in GPUs serve specific purposes and are optimized for different types of data access and processing, contributing to the overall performance and efficiency of AI computing tasks.


GPU rack

When choosing a GPU for AI computing, several performance metrics should be considered to ensure optimal performance and efficiency. Some of the key metrics to track GPU performance for evaluating AI computing tasks include:

  1. Training Time: The time taken to train deep learning models is critical for evaluating GPU performance. Different GPUs may exhibit varying training times, and it is essential to consider this metric when selecting a GPU for AI computing.
  2. Power Requirements and Temperatures: Monitoring power requirements and temperatures is crucial for evaluating GPU performance. Efficient power usage and temperature management contribute to the overall stability and longevity of the GPU, impacting its performance in AI computing tasks.
  3. Processing Speed: The processing speed of a GPU is a critical factor for AI computing. The number of CUDA cores, clock speeds, and architectural efficiency all contribute to a GPU’s processing power, which directly impacts its performance in handling AI workloads.
  4. Memory Capacity and Bandwidth: A GPU's memory capacity and bandwidth are essential performance benchmarks for evaluating GPUs in machine learning. Large datasets and complex AI models may require GPUs with sufficient memory capacity and high bandwidth to handle data-intensive tasks efficiently.
  5. GPU Utilization: Monitoring GPU utilization metrics, which measure the percentage of time GPU kernels are active, is crucial for ensuring efficient use of GPU resources. Efficient GPU utilization contributes to optimal performance and cost-effectiveness in AI computing tasks.

These metrics play a vital role in evaluating and selecting the most suitable GPU for AI computing, ensuring that the chosen GPU meets the performance, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness requirements of AI and machine learning projects.

To measure these metrics, several benchmarks are commonly used, such as:

  1. TensorFlow Benchmarks: These are a set of benchmarks provided by TensorFlow that measure the performance of various GPU models on a range of AI tasks.
  2. MLPerf: This is a broad benchmark suite for measuring the performance of machine learning software, hardware, and services.
  3. SPECviewperf: This benchmark measures the 3D graphics performance of systems running under the OpenGL and Direct X APIs.

Remember, the best GPU for your needs will depend on your specific use case and the performance metrics that matter most to you. Have a look out at our NVIDIA GPUs here.

Power Consumption

Power consumption is a critical factor in AI computing. High-performance GPUs, while offering significant computational advantages, can consume substantial amounts of power. This not only impacts the operating costs but also the thermal management of the systems they are housed in.

In data centers running multiple GPUs for large-scale AI workloads, power consumption can be a significant portion of the total cost of ownership. In the context of environmental sustainability, the importance of using green, renewable energy cannot be overstated.

As the demand for AI computing grows, so does the energy consumption of data centers worldwide. By powering these data centers with renewable energy, we can reduce the carbon footprint of AI workloads and contribute to a more sustainable future.

When evaluating the power consumption of a GPU, consider the following metrics:

  1. TDP (Thermal Design Power): This is the maximum amount of heat a GPU can produce that the cooling system is designed to dissipate. Higher TDP values typically correlate with higher power consumption and performance.
  2. Performance per Watt: This measures the efficiency of a GPU. It is calculated as the ratio of the performance (in FLOPS) to the power consumed (in Watts). A higher value indicates a more power-efficient GPU.
  3. Idle Power Consumption: This is the amount of power a GPU consumes when it’s not performing any computations. Lower idle power consumption can lead to significant energy savings, especially in systems that aren’t running computations 24/7.

A balance between power consumption and performance is crucial. A more powerful GPU may consume more power but could also complete tasks faster, potentially leading to overall energy savings.

Circuit board with moving electrons

Choosing the right GPU involves carefully evaluating your requirements, including the nature of your AI workloads, your budget, and your power constraints. Remember, the most expensive GPU is only sometimes the best choice. It’s about finding the right balance between performance, power consumption, and cost.

If you need further assistance in choosing the right GPU for your AI computing needs, don’t hesitate to give us a call at +1 (302) 587-7867, Monday through Friday, 9:00am - 5:00pm EST. We’re here to help! You can also connect with us on social media.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.