Craig Ulmer

Benchmarking the NVIDIA A100 GPU

2021-02-03 hpc gpu pub

Last Fall we purchased some NVIDIA Ampere A100 GPU cards to get a better understanding of how much they might impact some of our data-intensive workloads. Stefan Seritan dug into the details and put together this performance evaluation report.


The performance of NVIDIA's latest A100 graphics processing unit (GPU) is benchmarked for computing and data analytic workloads relevant to Sandia's missions. The A100 is compared to previous generations of GPUs, including the V100 and K80, as well as multi-core CPUs from two generations of AMD's EPYC processors, Zen and Zen 2. Computing workloads such as sparse matrix operations (e.g. HPCG benchmark) and numerical solver-heavy applications based on Trilinos and Kokkos see a moderate 1.5x to 2x speedups compared to the V100, consistent with the increased core count and memory bandwidth of the A100. Training and inference on machine learning (ML) models such as ResNet-50 for image classification and BERT-Large for natural language processing show the same 2x speedup over the V100.

However, these ML workloads also benefit from increased tensor core capabilities in the V100 and A100 GPUs, yielding a 3.5x speedup using a mixed (single + half) precision strategy for floating point operations. While the performance gap between GPUs and CPUs remains moderate (3x to 8x) for high-performance computing applications, these new hardware features of recent GPU generations give 50x to 100x speedups in out-of-the-box ML workloads compared to CPUs. With additional A100 features still undergoing testing (INT8, structural sparsity, multi-instance GPUs) with clear applications for ML workloads, the A100 GPU seems an extremely promising hardware accelerator for artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics research at Sandia.


  • SAND Report Stefan Seritan and Craig Ulmer "Benchmarking the NVIDIA A100 Graphics Processing Unit for High-Performance Computing and Data Analytics Workloads". SAND2021-1220, February 2021.