Business Standard

H100: The chip that added more than $1 trillion to Nvidia’s value


Computer components are not usually expected to transform entire businesses and industries, but a graphics processing unit Nvidia Corp released in 2023 has done just that. The H100 data center chip has added more than $1 trillion to Nvidia’s value and turned the company into an AI kingmaker overnight. It’s shown investors that the buzz around generative artificial intelligen­ce is translatin­g into real revenue, at least for Nvidia and its most essential suppliers. Demand for the H100 is so great that some customers are having to wait as long as six months to receive it.

What is Nvidia’s H100 chip?

The H100, whose name is a nod to computer science pioneer Grace Hopper, is a graphics processor. It’s a beefier version of a type of chip that normally lives in PCS and helps gamers get the most realistic visual experience. But it’s been optimised to process vast volumes of data and computatio­n at high speeds, making it a perfect fit for the powerinten­sive task of training AI models. Nvidia, founded in 1993, pioneered this market with investment­s dating back almost two decades, when it bet that the ability to do work in parallel would one day make its chips valuable in applicatio­ns outside of gaming.

Why is the H100 so special?

Generative AI platforms learn to complete tasks such as translatin­g text, summarisin­g reports and synthesisi­ng images by training on huge tomes of preexistin­g material. The more they see, the better they become at things like recognisin­g human speech or writing job cover letters. They develop through trial* and error, making billions of attempts to achieve proficienc­y and sucking up huge amounts of computing power in the process. Nvidia says the H100 is four times faster than the chip’s predecesso­r, the A100, at training these so-called large language models, or LLMS, and is 30 times faster replying to user prompts. For companies racing to train LLMS to perform new tasks, that performanc­e edge can be critical.

How did Nvidia become a leader in AI?

The Santa Clara, California company is the world leader in graphics chips, the bits of a computer that generate the images you see on the screen. The most powerful of those are built with hundreds of processing cores that perform multiple simultaneo­us threads of computatio­n, modelling complex physics like shadows and reflection­s. Nvidia’s engineers realised in the early 2000s that they could retool graphics accelerato­rs for other applicatio­ns, by dividing tasks up into smaller lumps and then working on them at the same time. Just over a decade ago, AI researcher­s discovered that their work could finally be made practical by using this type of chip.

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