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The future of CPU/GPU computing

With the completion of AMD’s acquisition of ATI, AMD has announced its working on new CPU/GPU silicon that integrates the CPU and graphics processor into a single unit. The upcoming silicon is currently codenamed Fusion and is expected in the late 2008 or early 2009 time frame. AMD claims Fusion will bring:

AMD intends to design Fusion processors to provide step-function increases in performance-per-watt relative to today’s CPU-only architectures, and to provide the best customer experience in a world increasingly reliant upon 3D graphics, digital media and high-performance computing. With Fusion processors, AMD will continue to promote an open platform and encourage companies throughout the ecosystem to create innovative new co-processing solutions aimed at further optimizing specific workloads. AMD-powered Fusion platforms will continue to fully support high-end discrete graphics, physics accelerators, and other PCI Express-based solutions to meet the ever-increasing needs of the most demanding enthusiast end-users.

AMD expects to integrate Fusion for all its product categories including laptops, desktops, workstation, servers and consumer electronics products. Judging by the inclusion of PCI Express support, it would appear the integrated GPU is more of a value solution—similar to Intel’s cancelled Timna processor. It is unknown if AMD will retain the current Athlon and Opteron names with the launch of Fusion. This isn't too surprising as AMD and ATI previously promised unified product development including vague mentions of hybrid CPU and GPU products. AMD also previously announced its Torrenza open architecture as well.

In addition to Fusion, AMD expects to ship integrated platforms with ATI chipsets in 2007. The platforms are expected empower commercial clients, notebooks, gaming and media computing. AMD expects users will benefit from greater battery life on the next-generation Turion platforms and greater enhancements with AMD Live! systems. DailyTech previously reported on ATI's chipset roadmap which outlined various integrated graphics and enthusiast products.

With the development of Fusion and upcoming integrated AMD platforms, it is unknown what will happen to NVIDIA’s chipset business, which currently relies mainly on AMD chipset sales.

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RE: AMD is in confusion
By ZmaxDP on 10/26/2006 2:05:20 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think so at all. Admittedly, Torrenza is basically a communication tech between discrete hardwares, and Fusion is a move to combine previously discrete hardwares together. At this simple level, sure they're diametrically opposed. That doesn't neccisarily mean that AMD is confused, or that the results of the two initiatives are at odds.

A comparable analogy is that parallel processing and ramping the frequency of a processor are diametrically opposed strategies. However, that doesn't mean that ramping the frequency on a highly parallel processor gets you nothing.

Quite often, combining two very different strategies is a highly effecetive move. It allows you flexibility in the market, and often the two can compliment eachother and get you more than either strategy would alone.

In this instance, lets assume that AMD is attempting to move all the functions of a GPU into the CPU. (I don't think this is the case except on the low end IGP side, but let's assume anyway). What do you gain with said "Fusion." Faster communication between the GPU and CPU, both ways. Increased processor performnace on come tasks (folding anyone? or physics for that matter). What do you loose? Upgrade flexibility, cost effectiveness perhaps (Though not having discrete memory sources might decrease some costs across the board)

Let's assume AMD chooses Torrenza instead for GPU's? You get similar though smaller gains in communication (marginally smaller). You loose some of the performance advantages from co-processing, though not all. And, you keep the flexibility and cost effectiveness of the previous generation (which isn't all that great when you think about it).

What about combining the two "diametrically opposed" strategies? Well, you could take some of the GPU's functions, namely the shader units and such that can massively improve the perfomance of a CPU in some areas. This would allow you to replace some of the processing functions of the CPU as well thus resulting in lower transistor counts than two discrete solutions at least. You could also NOT integrate other parts of the GPU that are really graphics specific and can't benefit other apps very much at this point and that are only needed for very graphic-intense applications. These could still be sold as Torrenza add on cards and have much lower power consumption and costs because of the reduced complexity of what is onboard. So, the Fusion CPU is then scalable for graphics. You have all the processing benefits of the current GPU on the CPU, and the ability to purchase the graphics add-ons seperately to meet your needs. Likely, the Fusion CPU would even have basic IGP functionality so you wouldn't need to have any add-on card unless you wanted it. Sure, it would decrease the upgrade flexibility a bit (in terms of the processing side of the graphics architecture). But, the ATI side of AMD could focus on making improvements in the add-on cards for the 3 to 6 month cycle, and processing level improvements on a yearly cycle. Not that bad of a scenario methinks.

In otherwords, AMD is going for a best of both worlds strategy, or a have your cake and eat it too strategy. Not too bad of an idea. I think AMD knows exactly where they are going with this one, I just don't think WE do.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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