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AMD's Charlie Boswell talks about Fusion Render Cloud

Exclusive Outlook cloudy, Tsunami of new tech coming
Thu Jan 22 2009, 15:15

AMD HAS BIG plans for the film, home entertainment and gaming industries with its Fusion Render Cloud supercomputer, which it unveiled at CES.

In an exclusive interview, AMD's Director of Digital Media and Entertainment, Charlie Boswell, spoke to the INQUIRER about the project and how it is at the forefront of combating what he calls 'global nerding'.

Back at CES, AMD's CEO Dirk Meyer and OTOY Chief Exec, Jules Urbach, said the project which pulls in partners including Dell, HP, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm and more, would revolutionise the deployment, development and delivery of HD content through the 'AMD Fusion Render Cloud', a massively-parallel supercomputer.

The supercomputer is designed to break the one petaFLOPS barrier and process a million compute threads across over 1,000 graphics processors, making it one of, if not THE, fastest graphics supercomputers in the world.

"We really are a platform company now", Boswell told the INQ referring to AMD's acquisition of ATI, and adding, "We have the ability to harness multiple CPUs and GPUs to provide some very cutting edge platforms".

BoswellThe Fusion Render Cloud (FRC) system will purportedly let content providers deliver video games, HD films, and a host of graphically-intensive computer apps through the Internet 'cloud' to virtually any type of connected mobile device, seamlessly and without sapping battery life.

The way it works is by storing rich content in a compute cloud, compressing it and then streaming it, real-time, over a wireless or broadband connection to a smorgasbord of devices. FRC will also impressively allow for remote real-time rendering of film and visual effects graphics.

"Imagine watching a movie half-way through on your cell phone while on the bus ride home, then, upon entering your home or apartment, switch over to your HD TV and continue watching the same movie from exactly where you left off, seamlessly, and at full screen resolution," said Boswell.

"Imagine playing the most visually intensive first person shooter game at the highest image quality settings on your cell phone without ever having to download and install the software, or use up valuable storage space or battery life with compute-intensive tasks," he continued.

Boswell told the INQ he believed the technology would also issue in a new genre of movie, "the interactive movie" and push the limits from high definition to "eye definition", making it incredibly difficult to tell the difference between real and rendered images.

But what Boswell, AMD's self-styled 'Chief [user] Empathy Officer' was most excited about, was the fact that FRC would really lead the charge against a phenomenon he calls "global nerding". "All these computer guys sort of worshipping the technology really just gets in the way of the common user" noted Boswell. "Fusion Render Cloud is going to bring in those people who have been excluded by the digital divide", he went on, adding it was time to put humanity back on top of technology. Boswell is certainly adamant any FRC user will be able to immerse his/her self in the technology without having to become an IT expert.

FRC will be powered by AMD-optimised hardware, including AMD Phenom II processors, AMD 790 chipsets and ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics processors with OTOY providing technical software development and a middleware layer. But does that mean it won't work on other graphics hardware? Boswell wasn't keen to get into specifics, but repeated "The optimum experience for this content is going to be available on ATI".

We asked Boswell whether the FRC was unhackable, to which he replied "I never say that. The resources of the global nerd are infinite, but it's certainly orders of magnitude more difficult".

Boswell told the INQ that FRC was "a culmination of eight years of involvement in high end content creation," and wasn't simply, "a flavour-of-the-week marketing campaign".

Asked when it would be coming out, Boswell agreed it would be, "Sooner rather than later," in 2009, and despite refusing to comment on any further partnership deals, promised, "There's a Tsunami of things coming". µ





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