Intel may have won the race to quad core this week with the launch of its Core 2 Duo Extreme and new Xeon processors but AMD isn’t ready to completely concede the floor.
Instead, the industries’ former darling has gone a different way entirely with the announcement of its ‘Stream Processor' (or Steam as I keep saying it for some reason).
Looking strangely familiar, this PCI Express based device has 1GB of onboard GDDR3 memory and is based on ATI’s R580 GPU (which sprung the X1900 series). The result is a product with Shader Model 3.0 support, true 32bit floating point precision, 48 shader processors and a 512bit ring bus memory controller. That sounds remarkably like a graphics card to me, but the combination of which claims to produce a wholly remarkable 375 gigaflops (375bn floating point operations) per second.
Naturally enough, this kind of mind blowing horsepower is currently being reserved for high performance computing (HPC) applications, specifically compute-only systems like workstations and servers but it is perhaps a glimpse of the future for home computing.
AMD's ability to process more than just graphics was demonstrated earlier this year, when it showed folding@home on the GPU. Just like folding@home, we can speculate that taking advantage of this acceleration will require software to be tailored especially for it.
AMD is shipping its Stream Processor immediately through hardware platform providers GraphStream, PANTA and Rackable Systems but declined to give specific pricing details. Safe to say that just like FireGL, it’s going to cost a fair bit more than your average X1900… ;)