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Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday announced that it would market ATI’s graphics processors for general-purpose computing applications under AMD Stream Processor brand-name. The company also unveiled special “Close to Metal” interface for efficient programming it’s the graphics chips that it now calls stream processors.

AMD’s first Stream Processor is basically ATI Radeon X1900 chip (code-named R580) installed onto a special print-circuit board. The chip has 48 of its pixel shader processors activated (each pixel shader processor of ATI R580 consists of two vector arithmetic logic units [ALUs], two scalar ALUs and a branch execution unit), operates at 600MHz, but comes with no vertex shader processors activated. The first Stream Processor board sports 1GB of GDDR3 memory at 1300MHz and is designed to fit into systems with PCI Express x16 slot.

“Stream computing is in line with our Torrenza initiative, delivering on AMD’s vision for co-processing and open innovation. AMD recognizes that HPC applications have specific hardware demands not met by standard, off-the-shelf graphics products. The AMD Stream Processor has been designed to address the HPC market with higher memory densities and HPC-optimized memory performance,” said Marty Seyer, senior vice president, computational product group, AMD.

AMD’s Stream Processor based on the Radeon X1900 technology will have 165W power consumption and will able to deliver up to 553.8GFLOPS performance (according to a presentation by ATI dated January 14, 2006).

AMD also announced that software developers can use a new thin hardware interface known as CTM (for “Close To Metal”) to increase general-purpose processing application performance. CTM gives developers unfettered access to the native instruction set and memory of the parallel computational elements in ATI Radeon X1900 graphics chip.

AMD claims that using CTM, stream processors effectively become powerful, programmable open architectures like today’s central processing units (CPUs). By opening up the architecture, CTM provides developers with the low-level, deterministic, and repeatable access to hardware that is necessary to develop essential tools such as compilers, debuggers, math1 libraries, and application platforms. Today more than 60 companies and research institutions are taking part in CTM trial programs, according to AMD.

CTM is available to developers to license today at no cost. AMD plans to sell the Stream Processor for $2600.

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