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AMD and ATI are already planning scalable designs for 2008
"Torrenza" platforms and unified GPU/CPU processors

AMD announced the $5.4B USD takeover of ATI earlier today, but the new company is already making large plans for the future.  Dave Orton, soon-to-be Executive Vice President of AMD's ATI Division, claimed that AMD and ATI would begin leveraging the sales of both companies by 2007.  However, a slide from the AMD/ATI merger documentation has already shown some interesting development plans for 2008.

Specifically, it appears as though AMD and ATI are planning unified, scalable platforms using a mixture of AMD CPUs, ATI chipsets and ATI GPUs.  This sort of multi-GPU, multi-CPU architecture is extremely reminiscent of AMD's Torrenza technology announced this past June, which allows low-latency communications between chipset, CPU and main memory. The premise for Torrenza is to open the channel for embedded chipset development from 3rd party companies. AMD said the technology is an open architecture, allowing what it called "accelerators" to be plugged into the system to perform special duties, similar to the way we have a dedicated GPU for graphics.

Furthermore, AMD President Dirk Meyer also confirmed that in addition to multi-processor platforms, stating "As we look towards ever finer manufacturing geometries we see the opportunity to integrate CPU and GPU cores together onto the same die to better serve the needs of some segments."  A clever DailyTech reader recently pointed out that AMD just recently filed its first graphics-oriented patent a few weeks ago.  The patent, titled "CPU and graphics unit with shared cache" seems to indicate that these pet projects at AMD are a little more than just pipe dreams.

During the AMD/ATI merger conference call, Meyer furthermore added that not too long ago, floating point processing was done on a separate piece of silicon.  Meyer claimed that the trend for the FPU integration into the CPU may not be too different than the evolution of the GPU into the CPU.

Bob Rivet, AMD's Chief Financial Officer, claims the combined company will save nearly $75M USD in licensing and development overlap in 2007 alone, and another $125M in 2008.  Clearly the combined development between the two companies has a few cogs in motion already.

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By pnyffeler on 7/24/2006 10:06:38 AM , Rating: 3
With the advent of Windows Vista, lumping the CPU & GPU into the same memory pool will not only be feasible but also the next logical move. Before Vista, GPU's were more or less beyond the control of the OS, so in order for them to work, they needed to have their own supply of memory that they controlled themselves. That was either in the form of on-card memory or shared memory for built-in GPU's. As everyone knows, shared memory sucks because the bandwidth is too small.

Now enter Vista. The OS can now manage the GPU as it does for the CPU. That also means that it can regulate the memory allocated to the GPU, and having separate memory supplies for the CPU and GPU becomes wasteful. Currently, if the GPU isn't active, the CPU can't use the GPU's unused memory space, and vice versa. By giving the two processors access to the same memory, you can allocate memory use as needed to either, or, even cooler, you can point the GPU to directly read information that the CPU has just written.

Finally, with Vista being a 64-bit OS, you've eliminated the 4 GB memory limit, making it possible to stuff you're rig with RAM. With 8 GB of RAM, you could have 3-4 GB allocated to your game of choice, 2 GB of the RAM allocated to the GPU to make it look really pretty, and still have enough RAM left over to keep all of your other programs happy.

Better start saving your allowances now....

By rrsurfer1 on 7/24/2006 10:11:07 AM , Rating: 2
Real good point.

By piraxha on 7/24/2006 12:54:13 PM , Rating: 2
The merging of CPUs and GPUs has already started, at VIA:

"To achieve this, VIA’s hardware strategy involves the explicit design of more performance per watt at the silicon level and more features per square inch at the platform level. To demonstrate this, Wenchi showed the fourth generation VIA processor named John. John features the CPU, chipset and graphics processor in the one package."

It should make for some interesting competition.

By Knish on 7/24/2006 6:41:29 PM , Rating: 2
The merging of CPUs and GPUs has already started, at VIA:

Sorry, I like my processors good.

By Targon on 7/24/2006 9:16:10 PM , Rating: 1
The bandwidth issue could easily be solved by having the graphics card be an HTX(HyperTransport) slot based instead of PCI Express. With dedicated memory slots that are directly connected to the HTX slot, the video card could talk directly to this special bank of memory and the latency issue becomes almost non-existant.

By Tyler 86 on 7/26/2006 11:49:30 PM , Rating: 2
I believe Targon hit the most obvious solution.

AMD has recently opened up their HTX specs to allow for drop-in coprocessors in their Multi-CPU boards.

Now they might be pushing 2 sockets, or even 4 sockets, to the desktop segment.

Perhaps when you go for your next upgrade, you'll have a choice of "Do I want more CPUs, or more GPUs?"

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