Every now and again a company surfaces with a cool bit of technology and I can't help but think to myself: "why haven't I heard of this before?" A company called Lucid has this week shown off just such a piece of kit, in the form of the HYDRA Engine, the company's own take on multi-GPU scaling. The basic premise: allow any combination of graphics cards to be installed in a system and get performance scaling that matches the combined independent processing power. Think Crossfire or SLI, but independent of the hardware used.
The tech works by placing itself between the graphics card's drivers and the operating system and intercepting DirectX commands before they're set to the GPU(s). This way it can assign workloads to cards based on what will provide the optimal performance. This is a much more efficient method that SLI or Crossfire, which use either split-frame or alternate frame rendering methods in multi-GPU configurations.
The other advantage of the HYDRA Engine is that because of its GPU-independent design, there's no limit to the combination of cards it can be used with. GPU driver limitations mean you still need nVidia with nVidia or ATI with ATI, but there's nothing to stop you adding an old Radeon 9800 XT into a system with a Radeon 4870 or, alternatively a GeForce 6600 to a GeForce GTX 260 set-up.
Interestingly, Lucid says HYDRA can be placed either on a motherboard or a graphics board. That means not only is there the potential to get SLI on an Intel or AMD chipset (because HYDRA doesn't use SLI there's no need to acquire an SLI license) or HYDRA can be placed on a graphics board itself, in the style of the Radeon 4870 X2, but without the limitations of Crossfire.
Supposedly products will be available early next year and I honestly cannot wait to see how this plays out!
PC Perspective (read this!).