Today it all kicks off, as for starters, ati.com disappears and even more excitingly, AMD starts blowing the trumpets of its new initiatives. Where's the new AMD/ATI headed? Towards Fusion...
The 'new' AMD is working towards a new processor design that will lead to jumps in price/performance/watt comparisons not just in desktop computing, but everywhere from consumer electronics to servers. But how are they doing that? The clue is in the acquisition of ATI that just completed... they're combining CPU and GPU into a single processor.
Heralded by AMD as the most significant evolution in x86 processors since Hammer hit the scene, the new combined CPU/GPU processors will make an appearance in 2008/2009. Just like when AMD tacked 64-bit instructions onto x86, Fusion will be fully 32/64-bit x86 compatible, and further instructions to help leverage Fusion could well make an appearance.
Fusion seems to be a massive shift of focus for AMD, but the company has said that the move will not instantly replace any of its other initiatives. When the first Fusion processors hit the market, they'll complement existing lines, and schemes like Torrenza HyperTransport connected co-processors are still on AMD's big list of cool things that should be nurtured. That said, AMD reckons the leaps in performance Fusion will bring will lead the new processors to become the most popular solution from the company, if not the industry.
With a GPU on the CPU, a number of bottlenecks are cut away, like getting data from the CPU to the GPU (duh!). Given the increasing popularity of hardware for the digital home, and the richness of media processed on nearly every computing device, combining both CPU and GPU power could well lead to leaps in performance. Even user interfaces now require 3D accelleration.
We've already seen that the GPU isn't just for drawing pretty pictures, GPGPU coming up with stuff to do on ATI's highly parallelised, speedy cores. Having those capabilities available on the central processor could come in handy.
Fusion isn't without its risks, however. NVIDIA is increasingly looking left out of the loop as AMD and ATI snuggle up together, but AMD insists that unlike Intel's locked down platforms, it will encourage open platforms leading to better choice. Discrete devices such as graphics and physics cards will still have a place next to a Fusion processor, to meet the demands of specific scenarios.
Dropping a GPU and CPU onto the same package will provide AMD with performance, cost and power consumption improvements, so come launch, we could once again have an Athlon 64-like ass-mastering of Intel. Then again, Intel isn't looking so complacent these days. The next two years of development are going to be pretty important for the two warring firms.
The hype over this during the next few hours is going to grow exponentially and keep doing so until we all have Fusion ringing in our ears at night. This is a big play by AMD, which on paper looks to give them, potentially, an extremely desirable product, but it's a big risk too. It simply has to work.
Brace yourselves, folks; journos and bloggers are about to go mad for this one.