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AMD Makes Graphics Chip Perform Unnatural Acts
One of the reasons that AMD bought ATI just surfaced
Nov. 19, 2006 06:15 PM
One of the reasons that AMD bought ATI just surfaced.
At Supercomputing on Tuesday AMD started pushing what it called the world's first dedicated stream processor aimed at juicing up HPC with massive doses of floating point performance.
And, no, it's not a new Opteron.
It's a tweaked ATI graphics processor - the year-old R580 core and its 48 cores used in Radeon X1900 graphics cards - but now appearing on a PCI Express add-in board with 1GB of GDDR3 memory capable of doing a massive 360 gigaflops in compute-intensive stream computing applications - if there were any.
That's where the CTM, for Close To Metal, a new thin hardware interface comes in. It's supposed to increase application processing performance as much as eight times more than traditional 3D APIs like OpenGL and DirectX.
It gives developers what AMD calls "unfettered access" to the native instruction set and the memory of the massively parallel computational elements in the Stream Processor - stream computing being all about harnessing massively parallel processors to chug through multiple calculations in parallel - and make it programmable like a CPU so developers can write compilers, debuggers, math libraries and application platforms.
AMD is offering to license the CTM for nothing as an ecosystem investment. Apparently 60 companies and research institutions are already taking part in CTM trial programs and AMD expects to get both HPC and consumer software out of the exercise.
Meanwhile, the Stream boards are going for $2,599 and a few companies like Rackable Systems will be selling so-called stream servers for development. The Stream Processor is also going through distribution.
AMD sees it as a natural for financial analysis, seismic migration analysis and life sciences research.
The Stream Processor fits in with AMD's co-processor-bent Torrenza initiative. It's probably something that is not going to make the Clearspeed accelerator folks very happy.
The idea of employing a GPU this way has been kicking around ATI for a while and apparently rival Nvidia has something similar happening. As a holdover from its days as an independent concern, the board works with either an AMD or Intel box. It supports XP, Windows Server 2003 and Red Hat.
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