THE INAUGURAL AMD Fusion Developer Summit, which is ending just as we write this story, can't compare in size yet to Intel's annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF), but by all measures seems to have been quite a success. With over 700 attendees - nearly half above the number expected - and three and a half days chock full of keynotes and technical sessions from Monday through Thursday, the event held in Bellevue, Washington, just a quick ride from Microsoft headquarters, had some interesting things to highlight.
While the summit was focused on encouraging the development community to embrace and optimise their coding for the Fusion approach, even beyond AMD platforms, AMD used the opportunity to also announce some new things and show off some of its long term company strategy. Unfortunately, the expected star of the show, AMD's Bulldozer CPU, was still nowhere to be seen. AMD still has a month or two before we'll see those next generation processors running, I believe.
However, finally AMD has staged quite a comeback. The 'Llano' A-Series Fusion APU's four core processors, while not the top performers in CPU per core benchmarks, are good enough for laptop and many mainstream desktop uses, and have an integrated GPU that is also good enough for a majority of DirectX 11 games on its own. We'll cover the new processor in more detail as we benchmark it, however it is clear that this APU will capture quite a handy share of the notebook and entry desktop market all by itself. Simply put, the ability to put in absolutely everything including graphics that basically doesn't need to be upgraded for a year or two during typical home use onto a low power mini ITX board in an equally small home theatre device is astounding. In short, it is a very balanced design.
The comments about Llano on the floor, among the attendees, were generally very positive, especially about tightly integrating those near half Teraflops of single precision floating-point performance. Even previewing the next generation Trinity, the Bulldozer-based 2012 Llano successor, didn't change the focus on the current part.
Besides Llano in both mobile and soon to be unveiled desktop versions, the other star of the show was the Fusion programming architecture itself. Even Microsoft, with its new C++ AMP, has endorsed the programming model supporting multiple processor types, from heavy general purpose out-of-order cores to many smaller in-order cores, and of course hundreds of GPU mini cores, all at same time, where the application schedules the appropriate codes to appropriate resources. Same with the memory model, whether it is a tightly shared memory space between CPUs or CPU and GPU or a loose memory model across many machines or even a cloud. The future code has to handle all this, if it is to extract maximum performance on diverse hardware platforms.
In summary, a good event beyond expectations, and it would have been even better if Bulldozer processors and next-generation graphics had been shown at the same time too, for a triple crown CPU-GPU-APU spread. Look for our further coverage of the Fusion technology update in an upcoming article. µ