NVIDIA Didn't Cancel Project Denver

SemiAccurate's Charlie Demerjian ran a story suggesting NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA  ) had cancelled its Project Denver. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the story, Project Denver is a custom ARMv8 (that's a 64-bit ARM (NASDAQ: ARMH  ) instruction set) processor core that NVIDIA intends for its mobile system-on-chip products. In this article, the record is set straight -- Project Denver is alive and well.

The infamous roadmap change
If you look closely at the old roadmap and the new roadmap, you'll notice NVIDIA mentions a Parker system-on-chip aimed for the 2015 timeframe that would be built on a FinFET process (presumably TSMC's (NYSE: TSM)). It would also feature the Maxwell GPU.

The GTC 2013 roadmap. Source: NVIDIA.

However, on the new roadmap, Parker is completely gone, and in its place is a chip codenamed Erista (for those of you interested in where these code names come, Erista is the son of Wolverine, aka Logan). Notably absent is any mention of FinFET.

NVIDIA's GTC 2014 roadmap. Source: NVIDIA.

This makes sense, though
Let's face it -- Taiwan Semiconductor (along with the rest of the semiconductor foundries) has been blowing a lot of smoke about its upcoming FinFET process. Each and every day, it seems as though some company is beating its chest about some tape-out of some test-chip, leading investors to think that products etched on these processes are "right around the corner." What else are they going to do with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) shipping FinFETs en masse each and every day, with second generation 14-nanometer FinFET products likely in production now?

Parker, then, is probably not cancelled, but given that we have yet to see a single mobile system-on-chip built on TSMC's 20-nanometer process as we enter Q2, it's tough to believe that foundry-built FinFETs are going to be around in volume during 2015. This means Parker is probably more of a 2016 story, assuming it isn't actually cancelled, of course.

What about Denver?
Denver, the custom CPU core from NVIDIA, was demonstrated in an early working prototype at CES 2014. While some NVIDIA-skeptics will claim that the chip is vaporware, CPU-Z did correctly identify it as an AArch64 (i.e., 64-bit ARM) processor. Now, unless you know of any other ARMv8-based system-on-chip products that could run Android (sorry, but writing an entire software stack for Apple's A7 system-on-chip on Android just to fake a demo seems outlandish), this is the real deal, even if it's a prototype a while from production.

Foolish bottom line
While NVIDIA has been known from time to time to lay on the hyperbole, particularly vis-a-vis new products, it's important not to get carried away. Denver is the name of a CPU core that is likely to find its way into a number of mobile system-on-chip products, the first of which will be the 64-bit variant of the Tegra K1. It's not cancelled, even if the Parker system-on-chip appears to be off the roadmap at this time.

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  • Report this Comment On March 27, 2014, at 10:35 AM, MeirElazar wrote:

    For anyone who wishes to understand Ashraf Eassa’s motivations and methodologies, I suggest you examine his article entitled “AMD Looks Finished” along with all of the reader comments. It was published on March 20th, 2014 in Seeking Alpha.

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/2099473-amd-looks-finished?i...

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