Throughout this shuffling of top office name plates, AMD engineers continued their dogged pursuit of Fusion. What began as a team of four people—former ATI vet Joe Macri, the recently deceased AMD fellow Chuck Moore, then-graphics CTO Eric Demmers (now at Qualcomm), and AMD fellow Phil Rogers, who was the group’s technical lead—had grown to envelop the top three layers of engineers from both the CPU and GPU sides of the company. Macri describes the early phase of their collaboration as "the funnest five months I’ve ever had." The first 90% of the Fusion effort was an executive engineer’s dream. "The last 10% was excruciating pain in some ways."
"That effort resulted in a couple of things," adds Macri. "One, we ended up with the best architecture out there that’s unifying scalar and vector compute. It blows away what [Intel] did with Larrabee. The Nvidia guys have only attacked part of the problem, because they only have the IP portfolio to attack part of the problem. What they’ve done isn’t bad. It’s actually good for having one hand tied behind their back. But with [Fusion], we had the full IP capability, and it truly is the first unified architecture, top to bottom."
Technical architecture aside, AMD developed something else: a cohesive, merged company. Out of the pressure and pain of Fusion development emerged a different company than either of the two that had gone into it. The old days of talking about "red" and "green" teams were finally gone.
"We were similar in that we were both in a major fist fight with one guy," says Macri. "I think ATI had the fairer fight in that we were up against a similarly-sized company [Nvidia]. But this had a lot of impact on design and implementation cycles. Now, the guys at AMD had won a number of times, but it was more like David and Goliath [Intel]. It was like, 'Wow, we actually beat Goliath!' With ATI, we’d been in a fist fight for many years with Nvidia, and we won as many as we lost. So we had a different attitude about winning. ATI needed to learn that there were some Goliaths out there, and you have to be pretty damned smart to beat a Goliath. AMD learned that it actually was a Goliath in certain cases. It could be an equal. Now merge that with some faster time to market strategies. Today, our product cycle time is faster than ever across the board. So the melding gave both sides a better ability to attack not just their traditional competitors but also new competitors coming up. And those new guys coming up aren’t big. They’re all kind of small. They’re all AMD-sized. I don’t think AMD ever would have had the right attitude on how to beat someone their own size without inheriting ATI. And I don’t think ATI could have figured out how to beat someone several times bigger without AMD’s attitude of asking how you aim where the other guy’s not aiming."
Just as the two organizations were completing their cultural fusion, the Fusion effort itself was nearing the end of its first stage. AMD showed its first Fusion APUs to the world at CES in early 2011, and product started shipping shortly thereafter. In the consumer space, the Llano platforms, based on the 32 nm K10 core, arrived in the A4, A6, A8, and E2 APU series. Another announcement from 2011 CES was that the Fusion System Architecture would henceforward be known as the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA). According to AMD, the company wanted to turn HSA into an open industry standard, and a name that didn’t reflect a long-standing AMD-centric effort would help illustrate that fact. This would prove to be the first hint of AMD’s even larger aspirations.