Advanced Micro Devices is preparing to release its latest FireStream general-purpose GPU for high-performance computing. The AMD FireStream 9270 GPU offers an additional performance boost to better handle high-performance computing and scientific applications. In addition, AMD is updating its software development kit to allow developers to write more applications that use the FireStream GPU. The AMD FireStream GPU competes against Nvidia's Tesla 10 series GPU and what Intel's Larrabee processor will offer when the chip is released.
is adding additional muscle to its line of FireStream graphics
processing units with a new stream processor that looks to boost the
company's offering around high-performance computing
AMD is also expanding its software
development kit for developers creating applications for this growing field.
On Nov. 13, the same day
will release its latest quad-core Opteron processor called "
the company will also launch the
FireStream 9270, a general purpose GPU (GP-GPU) that competes against the Nvidia
Tesla 10 GPU in the
AMD FireStream GPUs
are part of what the company refers to as
Stream, which looks to solve complex
problems by using the technology original development for the graphics market.
supercomputers were based on more traditional CPU architectures for years,
AMD are each beginning to develop
new generations of graphics processors for the field that will allow
applications to work faster and more efficiently. Unlike a CPU, a GPU or GP-GPU
contains hundreds of smaller stream processing cores and allows the software's
instructional threads to run in parallel, breaking the information down into
smaller pieces, which provides for high throughput and better performance for
various applications without relying as much on cranking the clock speeds.
AMD FireStream 9270
is one of several of these GP-GPUs that AMD
has brought to the HPC market since November 2007. In June, the
company offered the AMD FireStream 9250, which offers 1 teraflop or 1 trillion
calculations per second of single-precision floating point performance.
With the FireStream 9270,
increased the single-precision performance to 1.2 teraflops and the company's
engineers boosted the GPU's ability to handle double-precision performance to
240 gigaflops, which allows the FireStream 9270 to handle much more complex
scientific applications and process data much faster.
The FireStream 9270 also offers up to 2GB of GDDR5 (graphics
double data rate version 5) memory and works within a 160-watt thermal
AMD FireStream 9270, which
will hit the market in December, sells for $1,499.
These types of GP-GPU for
are beginning to increase as all the major chip vendors are looking at new ways
to increase performance and better handle the massive workloads needs in fields
such as oil and gas exploration, mechanical design, finance and traditional
science and research fields.
"Both oil and gas and finance have been two areas that have
adopted this type of technology early," said Patricia Harrell, director of
Stream Computing business. "In these areas, making a decision 50 milliseconds
faster or a little bit better could be worth billions of dollars in these
In addition to
its FireStream GPUs, Nvidia
offers its Tesla series of GPUs and the graphics company added to its
lineup earlier this year with the Tesla 10 series that offers 1 teraflop of
is expected to join the race in 2009 or 2010 when it releases "Larrabee,"
which is based on CPU cores instead of GPU cores.
While Nvidia is focusing on the GPU and Intel is sticking
with the CPU technology it knows best,
is looking to bridge the gap and combine its traditional CPU technology with
the graphics technology it inherited when the company bought
Eventually these two chip technologies will converge in what
AMD is calling APUs, or accelerated
processing units. The original name that
used referred to this as "Fusion." (An
spokeswoman at first said these
will not appear until 2012 but the company called back later saying no firm
launch date has ever been set.)
AMD is also supporting
OpenCL, a type of computing language that allows the GPU to be programmed like
a CPU and which is being supported by a number of companies including
Intel, Nvidia, Apple and
IBM. For its part,
Nvidia has its own language called CUDA, or Compute Unified Device Architecture.
AMD also support Microsoft's DirectX APIs.)
Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, suggested in
an e-mail that for now, Nvidia has been edging out
thanks to both its GP-GPUs and its emphasis on CUDA as a programming language.
AMD and its
Stream processors and software have begun to put pressure on Nvidia.
"Overall this market is in its infancy, leadership at this
market stage is often fleeting and both companies [Nvidia and
would likely do better assuring things work on both platforms until this
segment is more mature and then diverge," Enderle wrote in an e-mail.
"In other words, both would be well served to focus on
growing the market not competing with each other," Enderle added. "For now most
of these projects are one off anyway, but the need for inexpensive
supercomputers is massive and the results, in terms of race benefits like
curing diseases and solving energy problems, world changing. Given where this
stuff plays, this may be one of the most important efforts from either company
in their collective histories."
In addition to the new FireStream GPU,
is upgrading its software development kit for developers of
and scientific applications. The 1.3 version of the Stream Computing SDK is
based on Brook+, a language variant of C and developed at Stanford University,
AMD has included improvements to the
Brook+ runtime and kernel language to making application development easier.
In addition to FireStream and other developments concerning
AMD also plans to release a new driver for
its line of
ATI Radeon HD 4000 series graphics
cards that will allow consumers to take advantage of
Stream technologies. For example, in terms of applications, this driver update
will allow a system that uses these discrete
Radeon graphics cards to convert high-definition video faster. This
Catalyst driver is set for a Dec. 10 release.