What's The Future Looks Like... or May Not
Stream Processing to Replace FPU?
X-bit labs: Given your accent onto GPU computing, do you foresee a major shift onto stream computing from x86 computing?
Neal Robison: In the area of high-performance computers with some of the supercomputers around the globe we are seeing a major shift on the stream computing from traditional x86 computing environment. For AMD, when we look out into the future, it is about a good balance between those two worlds. There are tasks that make absolute sense for serialized x86 cores and there are a lot of tasks that make absolute sense in a parallel-oriented GPU-compute or stream computing core. What we want to have is a well-balanced system that would accommodate all of those tasks and take advantage of the processing power that is available for everything. So, I don't see one of those things taking over from another, but we want to make sure there is a good Fusion architecture which is there for the balance.
AMD A-series "Llano" processor. Image by Tech.Icrontic.com
X-bit labs: Maybe you think it is time to scrap x87, FPU in general and use multi-stream Radeon GPUs instead?
Neal Robison: I think that you cannot have just a GPU system. We emphasize that the GPU is great for a lot of tasks, but certainly there is a definite range for the x86/x87 multi-core inside a Fusion chip because of distribution of different tasks. So I would not say that multi-stream Radeon GPU is going to solve all the world's problems, it has never been designed that way. Running an operating system on top of the GPU at this time simply does not make a lot of sense. We want to achieve a good balance of serialized tasks and parallel tasks.
X-bit labs: Don't you think that Intel will be against the shift to GPU computing, given the fact that it does not have a fast enough GPU? Intel [in the current prospect] would rather prefer fat x86 multi-core rather than something like Fusion.
Neal Robison: Perhaps, they would be against the shift. They seem to be supporting our efforts as far as the Fusion type of architecture, I mean, this is really what Sandy Bridge and the next iterations of that are designed to be. I think that they tried really hard to develop a GPU that would be able to handle intensive tasks that consumers today want and they failed. It is not the first time that they failed with a GPU as well. I believe that they are under the notion that all tasks should still be focused on an x86 CPU and we simply don't see that as the future.
X-bit labs: What do you think about creation of a GPU based on very small x86 cores?
Neal Robison: I don't think that it is going to work. [...] There are parts of the GPU that have been now developed and matured over the last twenty years that just make so much more sense with the majority of the tasks that they are asked. I think that the best of both worlds would be x86 cores and traditional GPU; that would let developers take advantage of all the power that is there, not just completely rely on one side or the other.