Feeds

AMD, ATI and the GPU

Breaking the monopoly

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Comment "We may lose business on Intel boards, but we will break the Intel monopoly." With these words, AMD's CFO Bob Rivet announced the takeover of graphics chip maker, ATI, offering a future of joined-up shared processing, split between CPU and GPU.

The deal, announced today, goes back some time. Last year, at Computex in Taipei, it was apparent that ATI and AMD were falling in love with the idea of using the powerful graphics processor to run computer programs, not just for animating video.

At that show, software developers were invited to the launch of the new dual-core AMD processors, with prototype applications that ran, not on the x86 central processor, but on the graphics chip. Examples included video editors which could handle the output stream live, in real time.

This concept is probably beyond the grasp of the typical financial analyst, and in the short term, the City and Wall Street will probably panic, seeing only the probability that ATI will lose customers who make Intel motherboards, coupled with the possibility that end-users who want Nvidia graphics will have to buy Intel.

"In 2008 and beyond, AMD aims to move beyond current technological configurations to transform processing technologies, with silicon-specific platforms that integrate microprocessors and graphics processors to address the growing need for general-purpose, media-centric, data-centric and graphic-centric performance," said the official statement.

Questions asked during the webcast today showed that this went clear over the heads of most business editors, who wanted to know where the immediate shareholder value arose, suggested that the $5.4bn prices paid for ATI was far too high, and wondered how AMD might get out of it if/when they realised it was a fatal mistake.

As to whether it is a mistake, is almost impossible to guess. Writing software for the graphics processor is a challenge, and those who have decided that the GPU is too darned powerful to leave drawing triangles, have come up short against problems - mostly, lack of software tools.

The obvious risk, is that the idea is non-standard. The market has shown many times just how much it loves the Intel x86 instruction set, and how little it likes "improvements" like the Intel Itanium 64-bit processor. It was, of course, AMD itself which went out on a limb and said: "We'll stick with x86 and design a 64-bit version of that architecture" rather than switch to the alternative 64-bit design. Why would AMD now think it can get away with the same mistake that has, after all, hit Intel pretty hard?

It's a good question. The basis of Intel's thinking has been described as "a black hole" by former IBM Fellow Glenn Henry, founder of Centaur: "It's clear that the processor is the black hole, and that all silicon is going to fall into it at some point. Integration is inevitable, in our business."

Henry was looking at the business from a different viewpoint: he wanted to justify selling out Centaur to Via Technology pioneer Wenchi Chen (Via now owns Centaur): "Those who can do a processor can control their system destiny, and those who don't will end up totally at the mercy of other people, who can shut them out of business right away," Henry explained.

And as an example, he said, when IDT bought Centaur in the first place, they were making a lot of money on SRAMs that went into caches on PC motherboards. "Two years later, there were no SRAMs on PC motherboards, because Intel put them on the die. That's going to happen to some of the chips today. All the other chips are gonna disappear at some point, and all that's left is the big chip, with the processor in the middle. You have to own that processor technology, or it won't be your chip."

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Apple takes blade to 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
Shaves price, not screen on mid-2014 model
iPhone 6 flip tip slips in Aussie's clip: Apple's 'reversible USB' leaks
New plug not compatible with official Type-C, according to fresh rumors
FEAST YOUR EYES: Samsung's Galaxy Alpha has an 'entirely new appearance'
Wow, it looks like nothing else on the market, for sure
YES YES YES! Apple patents mousy, pressure-sensing iVibrator
Fanbois prepare to experience the great Cupertin-O
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer
Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness
TV transport tech, part 1: From server to sofa at the touch of a button
You won't believe how much goes into today's telly tech
Apple analyst: fruity firm set to shift 75 million iPhones
We'll have some of whatever he's having please
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.