AMD's Fusion Is Coming Together

Advanced Micro Devices' (NYSE: AMD  ) Fusion strategy is coming together. And this time, the perennial underdog got a jump on the competition.

The OpenCL programming framework is a relative newcomer to the computing scene. This open computing language -- published by the who's-who-of-technology Khronos consortium, which includes everyone from the Los Alamos National Labs to IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) -- helps programmers take full advantage of today’s increasingly powerful but also more complex processors.

The technology taps into the power of both graphics cards from NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) and AMD's ATI unit, and the central processors made by Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) and AMD. This way, you can take a load off your poor overworked processor by sending some work to the graphics processor instead -- or simply take better advantage of the multicore features that give modern processors their power. In short, OpenCL should make computers more efficient by better utilizing their resources.

Yesterday, AMD released the first development framework for running OpenCL work on the central processor. The drivers will work on any reasonably modern processor from AMD or Intel. Intel is also part of the Khronos group, but it hasn't submitted an OpenCL development platform yet.

AMD’s OpenCL implementation should work across Linux and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows platforms today. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is adding OpenCL support to the upcoming Snow Leopard version of Mac OS X. The industry is rallying behind the OpenCL platform.

And nobody benefits more than AMD. That's probably why the company put some extra coals on the fire and beat its rivals to market with a processor OpenCL toolkit.

NVIDIA can leverage OpenCL to make its graphics processors more useful to the end user, and Intel has plenty of central processors with multiple processor cores. But AMD gets both sides of the coin -- uniquely so, until Intel gets around to releasing its Larrabee graphics product. And don't forget that the Istanbul-class processor comes with six processor cores -- 50% more cores than the biggest, baddest four-core Nehalem processors Intel currently offers.

Now let's see how AMD leverages this temporary set of unique advantages before the other guys catch up. If the company plays its cards right, workstations with Istanbul processors and ATI graphics, all tied together into an ultra-efficient computing powerhouse by AMD’s own OpenCL drivers, could become the standard for certain math-intensive tasks.

It’s AMD’s Fusion strategy in full force, wherein AMD markets itself as the premium provider of both graphics and central processing products. This is not to be confused with the perennially delayed Fusion product that will put graphics processors right inside the central processor -- one chip, multiple functions.

Fusion confusion, indeed. But the strategy is still sound, and a real selling point for AMD’s products.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in AMD, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (11)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2009, at 3:35 PM, fl1180 wrote:

    OpenCL is far from coming together. Getting two types of archetectures (x86 and GPU - stream) working together outside of (OpenGL or DirectX) is very hard and only works in a handful of floating point intensive applications (i.e. supercomputing apps).

    Intel's Larrabbee is going to rock and it's x86 based. Also, Intel has a 6 core (Core-2 based) Xeon processor and Nehalem maybe 4-cores, but it is hyperthreaded, making it essentiallly 8 cores. Nehalem can also support 3-DDR3 memory channels. It kills AMD's server chips in every way.

    AMD has fallen so far behind in every market category, I can't see it coming back anytime soon. If Intel delivers what they promise with Larrabbee, then I think they only have to fear government regulators.

  • Report this Comment On August 07, 2009, at 11:38 AM, jpanspac wrote:

    Anders,

    In your relentless hyping of AMD you somehow forgot to mention that 6-core Istanbul is still slower than 4-core Nehalem.

    http://techreport.com/articles.x/17005/12

  • Report this Comment On August 07, 2009, at 4:17 PM, YaleDropOut wrote:

    AMD's issue seems to be more with preconceptions than anything else. Reality is they have really changed around their company particularly in the graphics space - more than just with OpenCL.

    - They have their partnership with MachStudio Pro for including their high end FirePro card as a packaged solution for CG, previz , architecture.

    - They released the CrossFire Pro technology (finally).

    - They are going to be one of the first out with Direct X 11 compatible cards.

    - They are doing something (I missed the Siggraph Otoy talk) for real-time imaging over the web.

    The market needs a little competition, so it is good to see their fusion strategy and graphics focus.

    Larabee will be interesting - not sure how it will actually impact the graphics market vs the server market.

  • Report this Comment On August 10, 2009, at 9:14 AM, sarajkumar wrote:

    Intel's larrabee cannot be efficient as AMD of NVIDIA graphics. IT CANNOT GIVE 2.4 teraflops of performance for 200 watts. Thats sure Because it is the same junk x86 processor.

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