Jan 13, 2009

Tech - AMD Developing Supercomputer for HD Games

Jennifer LeClaire

AMD is planning a revolution in the cloud -- a gaming revolution. The chipmaker's International Consumer Electronics Show buzz revolved around a plan to develop, deploy and deliver high-definition content through the AMD Fusion Render Cloud, a massively parallel supercomputer.

AMD plans to provide the hardware and engineering resources for the cloud, with OTOY providing technical software development and a middleware layer.

AMD is designing the system to enable content providers to deliver video games, PC applications, and other graphically intensive apps through the Internet to virtually any type of mobile device with a Web browser. The supercomputer promises to do this without making the device rapidly deplete battery life or struggle to process the content.

AMD's Grand Plans

AMD President and CEO Dirk Meyer announced the plans during AMD's Industry Insider Series keynote address at CES. Lucasfilm, Dell, HP and Electronic Arts joined AMD on the stage at the Las Vegas Hilton Theater.

Meyer said this is a supercomputer "unlike any other ever built." AMD is designing the supercomputer to break the one-petaflop barrier and to process a million compute threads across more than 1,000 graphics processors.

"We anticipate it to be the fastest graphics supercomputer ever. And it will be powered by OTOY's software for a singular purpose: to make HD cloud computing a reality. We plan to have this system ready by the second half of 2009," Meyer said.

AMD has a long track record in the supercomputing world. Meyer pointed out that seven out of 10 of the world's fastest machines, including the fastest two computers on the planet, are powered by AMD hardware.

What the Fusion Render Cloud Can Do

The AMD Fusion Render Cloud aims to transform movie and gaming experiences through server-side rendering -- which stores visually rich content in a cloud, compresses it, and streams it in real time over a wireless or broadband connection to a variety of devices, such as smartphones, set-top boxes, and ultrathin notebooks.

AMD said gaming companies can use the AMD Fusion Render Cloud for developing and deploying next-generation game content, to serve up virtual-world games with photo-realistic detail, and leverage new delivery channels. AMD-optimized hardware, including the AMD Phenom II processors, AMD 790 chipsets, and ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics processors, will power the AMD Fusion Render Cloud.

Electronic Arts was on hand at the presentation to offer its nod to AMD's latest project. "From the first PCs to CD gaming to the advent of Internet gaming, Electronic Arts has embraced each new evolution of technology as an opportunity to bring new experiences to our customers," said Richard Hilleman of Electronic Arts.

"OTOY and AMD are at the cutting edge of thin-client gaming, and we look forward to the new customers we can reach and the new interactive expressions that emerge from revolutionary technology like the AMD Fusion Render Cloud," he added.

Accommodating Hard-Core Gamers

As gaming has shifted toward online gaming communities, gaming promoters have run into some scalability issues in terms of accommodating the number of gamers who are playing at any given time, according to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"Gaming vendors have run into real challenges with how to deploy enough computing firepower to run their systems or to support the games during the high-demand times, and then having what are essentially overprovision in the data centers for the low-demand times," King said. "AMD is offering a highly flexible approach to a thorny back-end data-center problem."

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