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GPGPU

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Peter Bright

AMD

AMD wants to talk about HSA, Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA), its vision for the future of system architectures. To that end, it held a press conference last week to discuss what it's calling "heterogeneous Uniform Memory Access" (hUMA). The company outlined what it was doing, and why, both confirming and reaffirming the things it has been saying for the last couple of years.

The central HSA concept is that systems will have multiple different kinds of processors, connected together and operating as peers. The two main kinds of processors are conventional: versatile CPUs and the more specialized GPUs.

Modern GPUs have enormous parallel arithmetic power, especially floating point arithmetic, but are poorly-suited to single-threaded code with lots of branches. Modern CPUs are well-suited to single-threaded code with lots of branches, but less well-suited to massively parallel number crunching. Splitting workloads between a CPU and a GPU, using each for the workloads it's good at, has driven the development of general purpose GPU (GPGPU) software and development.

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STARING EYES!
Faces are everywhere in games. NVIDIA noticed this and has been on a 20-year odyssey to make faces more facey and less unfacey (while making boobs less booby, if you’ll remember the elf-lady Dawn). Every few years they push out more facey and less unfacey face tech and make it gurn for our fetishistic graphicsface pleasure. Last night at NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference, NVIDIA founder Jen-Hsun Huang showed off Face Works, the latest iteration. Want to see how less unfacey games faces can be?

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Mark Cerny gives us our first look at the PS4's internals.

Andrew Cunningham

By the time Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4 at last night's press conference, the rumor mill had already basically told us what the console would be made of inside the (as-yet-nonexistent) box: an x86 processor and GPU from AMD and lots of memory.

Sony didn't reveal all of the specifics about its new console last night (and, indeed, the console itself was a notable no-show), but it did give us enough information to be able to draw some conclusions about just what the hardware can do. Let's talk about what components Sony is using, why it's using them, and what kind of performance we can expect from Sony's latest console when it ships this holiday season.

The CPU


AMD's Jaguar architecture, used for the PS4's eight CPU cores, is a follow-up to the company's Bobcat architecture for netbooks and low-power devices. AMD

We'll get started with the components of most interest to gamers: the chip that actually pushes all those polygons.

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Though virtual machines have become indispensable in the server room over the last few years, desktop virtualization has been less successful. One of the reasons has been performance, and specifically graphics performance—modern virtualization products are generally pretty good at dynamically allocating CPU power, RAM, and drive space as clients need them, but graphics performance just hasn't been as good as it is on an actual desktop.

NVIDIA wants to solve this problem with its VGX virtualization platform, which it unveiled at its GPU Technology Conference in May. As pitched, the technology will allow virtual machines to use a graphics card installed in a server to accelerate applications, games, and video. Through NVIDIA's VGX Hypervisor, compatible virtualization software (primarily from Citrix, though Microsoft's RemoteFX is also partially supported) can use the GPU directly, allowing thin clients, tablets, and other devices to more closely replicate the experience of using actual desktop hardware.

Enlarge / NVIDIA's VGX K1 is designed to bring basic graphics acceleration to a relatively large number of users. NVIDIA

When last we heard about the hardware that drives this technology, NVIDIA was talking up a board with four GPUs based on its Kepler architecture. That card, now known as the NVIDIA VGX K1, is built to provide basic 3D and video acceleration to a large number of users—up to 100, according to NVIDIA's marketing materials. Each of this card's four GPUs uses 192 of NVIDIA's graphics cores and 4GB of DDR3 RAM (for a total of 768 cores and 16GB of memory), and has a reasonably modest TDP of 150 watts—for reference, NVIDIA's high-end GTX 680 desktop graphics card has a TDP of 195W, and the dual-GPU version (the GTX 690) steps this up to 300W.

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First time accepted submitter thrae writes "Adapteva has just released the architecture and software reference manuals for their many-core Epiphany processors. Adapteva's goal is to bring massively parallel programming to the masses with a sub-$100 16-core system and a sub-$200 64-core system. The architecture has advantages over GPUs in terms of future scaling and ease of use. Adapteva is planning to make the products open source. Ars Technica has a nice overview of the project."


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Information about Intel's next-generation processor architecture, codenamed Haswell, has been leaking steadily for some time, but presentations at today's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) are finally giving us details on what to expect from the fourth-generation Core processors when they launch in 2013.

Haswell is a "tock", in Intel parlance—a completely new processor architecture manufactured using the same 22nm process and "3D" tri-gate transistors as Ivy Bridge. As with Ivy Bridge, the bulk of Intel's attentions are focused on improving graphics performance and reducing power consumption—while Haswell's optimizations will definitely make it faster than Ivy Bridge at the same clock speeds, CPU performance definitely took a back seat during Intel's Haswell-oriented keynote today.

The CPU: modest improvements in a power-efficient package

Much about Haswell's architecture is similar to Ivy Bridge in many ways: key technologies like Turbo Boost and Hyperthreading are still in play, and the instruction pipeline and L1 and L2 cache sizes remain the same.

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