Skip to main content

AMD Fusion: How It Started, Where It’s Going, And What It Means

Focus On The Programmer

"Every programmer has their own favorite language," says Phil Rogers. "They can almost be religious about it. You don’t want to tell a programmer that he has to change the way he currently develops applications in order to deliver better experiences. HSA enables heterogeneous computing for all high-level languages over time."

Compatibility with C and C++ might have been sufficient for some, but AMD wanted to make sure everyone was covered, so it expanded HSA to work with C#, Java, and even functional languages. And because there’s only so much AMD can do on its own, the company decided to turn HSA into an open standard governed by the HSA Foundation, which boasts founding members including ARM, MediaTek, and Texas Instruments. Officially launched in June 2012, the HSA Foundation’s goal is to promote HSA-enabled platforms and software at all levels. This includes making SDKs, libraries, training, and other resources available to all programmers, often for free. From a developer perspective, the whole idea of HSA is that programmers can now easily take advantage of the heterogeneous compute model in their apps without being bound to design or write in any certain way.

Manju Hedge

"Programmers don’t just program to the metal," says AMD’s Manju Hegde. "They need proper compilers, debuggers, profilers, optimization tools, libraries. These are the tasks ahead of us, which is why we established the HSA Foundation, to drive the standard forward. A lot of the tools we do will be open sourced. This will give partners quicker time to market and lower the financial burden. When the software ecosystem sees that this is a genuine industry effort, the value of that will not be lost upon them. Because this is one of the first times that hardware companies are making changes to chip architecture to accommodate ease of software development. Tons of companies make changes because they want new capabilities, new features. But we’ve made changes simply to make it easier for programmers. That’s what’s needed to make things pervasive."

It’s important to keep in mind that OpenCL and HSA are two very different things, and it’s likely that the former will evolve to better fit the latter with time. Even without HSA, OpenCL offers a much different programming experience than it did even two years ago. For example, OpenCL 1.2 drastically reduces the amount of initialization code and other overhead code that used to be required for OpenCL. With HSA, that trend toward simplicity and performance will continue as programmers no longer need to manage two different memory spaces.

Lines of Code and Performance

"Say a programmer uses Visual Studio today, writing C++ apps in Windows," says Phil Rogers. "There are hundreds of thousands of programmers doing that. For them, they can use this new technology in Visual Studio Microsoft released called C++ AMP, short for Accelerated Massive Parallelism. In C++ AMP, they only added two keywords to the language, restrict and array_view, and just by adding those two functions, those programs are marked for offload into GPU. The tiny change to the program gives numerous benefits when they have chunks of very parallel code in existing applications. It’s a much easier transition than one might expect."

  • mayankleoboy1
    Wont the OS have to evolve along with the HSA to support it? Can those unified-memory-space and DMA be added to Windows OS just with a newer driver?

    With Haswell coming next year, Intel might just beat AMD at HSA. They need to deliver a competitive product.
    Reply
  • Dupontrocks11
    Perhaps Skynet will start off as an APU manufacturer. Lol.
    Reply
  • pharoahhalfdead
    Informative article that kept my attention. Propz
    Reply
  • Reynod
    Great article ... well balanced.

    I think you were being overly kind about the current CEO's ability to guide the company forward.

    Dirk Meyer's vision is what he is currently leveraging anyway.

    A company like that needs executive leadership from someone with engineering vision ... not a beancounter from retail sales of grey boxes.

    History will agree with me in the end ... life in the fast lane on the cutting edge isn't the place for accountants and generic managers to lead ... its for a special breed of engineers.
    Reply
  • jamesyboy
    AMD is the jack-of-all-trades and the master-at-none. Even the so called "balancing" that they're supposed to be doing is already being done better by Nvidia, ARM, and now Intel with Medfield. AMD doesn't stand a chance trying to bring a ARM like balance to the x86 field. I have no idea what they were thinking when they decided that they'd rather be stuck in between mobile and desktop. They have all of this wonderful IP, all those wonderful engineers. I fear that what's best for AMD will be to leave the x86 battlefield all together, and become a company like Qualcomm or Samsung, and leverage their GPU IP into the Arm world--i fear this because a world where Intel is the only option, is one that's far worse off for the consumer.

    They don't have the efficiency of Ivy Bridge, or Medfield, they don't have the power of Ivy Bridge, and they're missing out on this round of the Discrete Graphics battle (they were ahead by so far, but nvidia seems to have pulled an Ace out of their butt with the 600 series). So what exactly IS AMD doing well? HTPC CPUs? Come on! The adoption rate for the system they're proposing with HSA is between 5 and 10 years off....and because they moved too early, and won't be able to compete until then, they have to give the technology away for free to attract developers.

    Financially, this a company's (and a CEOs) worst nightmare...they're too far ahead of their time, and the hardware just isn't there yet.

    This will end of being just like the tablet in the late '90s, and early '00s. It won't catch on for another decade, and another company will spark, and take advantage of the transition properly, much to AMD's chagrin.

    I'm not sure if it was the acquisition of ATI that made AMD feel like it was forced to do this so early, but they aren't going to force the market to do anything. This work should have been done in parallel while making leaps and bounds within the framework of the current model.

    You can't lead from behind.

    I've always been a fan of AMD. They've brought me so e of the nicest machines I've ever owned...the one that had me, and still have me most excited. But I have, and always will buy what's fastest, or best at the job I need the rig for. And right now...and for the foreseeable future, AMD can't compete on any platform, on any field, any where, at anytime.

    AMD just bet it's entire company, the future of ATI (or what was the lovely discrete line at AMD), the future of their x86 platform, and their manufacturing business all on something that it wasn't sure it would even be around to see. They bet the farm on a dream.

    Nonetheless, i disagree that you were being overly kind about the CEOs ability to lead the company. I think you're being overly kind for thinking this company has a viable business model at all. Theyll essentially have to become a KIRF (sell products that are essentially a piece o' crud, dirt cheap) f a compay to stay alive.

    This is mostly me ragin at the fail. The writer of this article deserves whatever you journalist have for your own version of a Nobel.

    This was a seriously thorough analysis, and by far the best tech piece i've seen all year. We need more long-form journalism in the world, for i her way too many people shouting one line blurbs, with zero understanding of the big picture.But i have to say, that while this artucle is 98% complete, you missed speaking anout the fact that this company is a company...an enterprise that survives only with revenue.
    Reply
  • A Bad Day
    I really enjoyed this article.

    Now, does anyone want to play Crysis in software rendering with max eyecandy?
    Reply
  • SteelCity1981
    Kaveri looks very impressive reaching the 1 TFLOP milestone on a APU.
    Reply
  • army_ant7
    @jamesyboy:
    It's not over until the fat lady sings. As I read your post, I felt that you were missing a (or the) big point of the APU and this article.

    It's about how software is developed nowadays and how there is such a huge reserve of potential performance waiting to be tapped into. I could imagine that if future software bite into this "evolution" to more GPGPU programming then I would expect a huge jump in performance even on the current, or shall I see currently being phased out, Llano APU's.

    Yes, current discrete GPU systems would improve in performance as well significantly I would think, but to the same degree that APU's would improve, especially with the new technologies to be implemented like unifying memory spaces, etc? I don't think so.

    I'm not saying that you're totally wrong. AMD might end up croaking, but we can't say for certain 'til it happens. Don't you agree? :-) (I'm not picking any fights BTW. Just sharing my thoughts.)
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    jamesyboyAMD is the jack-of-all-trades and the master-at-none. Even the so called "balancing" that they're supposed to be doing is already being done better by Nvidia, ARM, and now Intel with Medfield. AMD doesn't stand a chance trying to bring a ARM like balance to the x86 field. I have no idea what they were thinking when they decided that they'd rather be stuck in between mobile and desktop. They have all of this wonderful IP, all those wonderful engineers. I fear that what's best for AMD will be to leave the x86 battlefield all together, and become a company like Qualcomm or Samsung, and leverage their GPU IP into the Arm world--i fear this because a world where Intel is the only option, is one that's far worse off for the consumer.They don't have the efficiency of Ivy Bridge, or Medfield, they don't have the power of Ivy Bridge, and they're missing out on this round of the Discrete Graphics battle (they were ahead by so far, but nvidia seems to have pulled an Ace out of their butt with the 600 series). So what exactly IS AMD doing well? HTPC CPUs? Come on! The adoption rate for the system they're proposing with HSA is between 5 and 10 years off....and because they moved too early, and won't be able to compete until then, they have to give the technology away for free to attract developers.Financially, this a company's (and a CEOs) worst nightmare...they're too far ahead of their time, and the hardware just isn't there yet.This will end of being just like the tablet in the late '90s, and early '00s. It won't catch on for another decade, and another company will spark, and take advantage of the transition properly, much to AMD's chagrin.I'm not sure if it was the acquisition of ATI that made AMD feel like it was forced to do this so early, but they aren't going to force the market to do anything. This work should have been done in parallel while making leaps and bounds within the framework of the current model.You can't lead from behind.I've always been a fan of AMD. They've brought me so e of the nicest machines I've ever owned...the one that had me, and still have me most excited. But I have, and always will buy what's fastest, or best at the job I need the rig for. And right now...and for the foreseeable future, AMD can't compete on any platform, on any field, any where, at anytime.AMD just bet it's entire company, the future of ATI (or what was the lovely discrete line at AMD), the future of their x86 platform, and their manufacturing business all on something that it wasn't sure it would even be around to see. They bet the farm on a dream.Nonetheless, i disagree that you were being overly kind about the CEOs ability to lead the company. I think you're being overly kind for thinking this company has a viable business model at all. Theyll essentially have to become a KIRF (sell products that are essentially a piece o' crud, dirt cheap) f a compay to stay alive.This is mostly me ragin at the fail. The writer of this article deserves whatever you journalist have for your own version of a Nobel.This was a seriously thorough analysis, and by far the best tech piece i've seen all year. We need more long-form journalism in the world, for i her way too many people shouting one line blurbs, with zero understanding of the big picture.But i have to say, that while this artucle is 98% complete, you missed speaking anout the fact that this company is a company...an enterprise that survives only with revenue.
    Funny, but last I checked, AMD's Radeon 7970 GHz edition is the fastest single GPU graphics card for gaming right now, not the GTX 680 anymore. Furthermore, AMD can compete in many markets in both GPU and CPU performance and price. AMD's FX series has great highly threaded integer performance for its price (much more than Intel) and the high end models can have one core per module disabled to make them very competitive with the i5s and i7s in gaming performance. Going into the low end ,the FX-4100 and Llano/Trinity are excellent competitors for Intel. Some of AMD's APUs can be much faster in both CPU and GPU performance than some similarly priced Intel computers, especially in ultrabooks and notebooks where Intel uses mere dual-core CPUs that either lack Hyper-Threading or have such a low frequency that Hyper-Threading isn't nearly enough to catch AMD's APUs. Is this always the case? No, not at all. However, you ignore this when it happens (which isn't rare) and you ignore many other achievements of AMD.

    As of right now, there is no retail Nvidia card that has better performance for the money (at least when overclocking is concerned) than some comparably performing AMD cards anymore. The GTX 670 ca't beat the Radeon 7950 in overclocking performance and it can't beat the 7950 in price either. The GTX 680 is no more advantageous against the Radeon 7970 and 7970 GHz Edition. I'm not saying that these cards don't compete well or that they don't have great performance for the money (that would be lying), but they don't win outside of power consumption, which, although important, isn't significant enough of an advantage when the numbers are this close.

    Whether or not AMD will fail as a company remains to be seen. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. However, if you want to say that they do, then the supporting info that you give should be more accurate.
    Reply
  • army_ant7
    blazorthonAs of right now, there is no retail Nvidia card that has better performance for the money (at least when overclocking is concerned) than some comparably performing AMD cards anymore. The GTX 670 ca't beat the Radeon 7950 in overclocking performance and it can't beat the 7950 in price either. The GTX 680 is no more advantageous against the Radeon 7970 and 7970 GHz Edition.Interesting. I didn't know that. :-) Is this generally true about the whole GCN lineup vs. the whole Keppler line up? I'm talking about overclocking performance of course since by default, the high-end Nvidia cards are more recommended, well at least the GTX 670. :-)
    Reply