AMD has been talking about CPU and GPU ‘fusion’ for many months now as they believe using both a processor and a graphics card is the way of the future. Today that reality has come one step closer with the announcement of a new technology brand called ATI Stream.
It has been known for a couple years now that graphics cards and computer processors are better at handling different types of work loads and now software applications are able to work with both types of processors. In an ideal world the computer processor would handle the serial and task parallel workloads, while the graphics card would handle the data parallel workloads and the traditional graphics workloads.
Since serial and parallel computing terminology can confuse just about anyone not in the tech industry, the marketing team over at AMD has termed it ‘ATI Stream Technology,’ which isn’t a bad idea. ATI Stream uses the massive parallel processing power of AMD graphics processors to enable new capabilities to users that go beyond the traditional usage scenarios of graphics rendering and video processing. Based on that definition anything that uses a video card for operations other than graphics rendering and video processing would be considered Stream Technology.
ATI Stream Technology has been in the works since 2006, but only now that the market has seen the performance improvements has it really been able to catch on with mainstream applications.
It’s hard to believe, but it was back in 2006 that the stream computing development platform was developed and application projects like Folding @Home began. Less than a year later with the release of the R600 GPU, the Folding @Home application was released and that really began the movement for stream computing from the enthusiast and power user perspective. In 2007 AMD released the FireStream 9170, which was the first GPU stream processor with double-precision floating point. Today, AMD is releasing the AMD FireStream 9270, which is capable of 240 GFLOPS of double-precision floating point performance for those wanting HPC-class performance.
Currently, AMD has manufactured and sold over 2 million ATI Radeon HD 4000 series of graphics cards and all of which are more than able to take advantage of ATI Stream Technology, but there is a catch. In order to unlock the built-in ATI Stream capabilities one must update their drivers with some new software code that will be part of the upcoming ATI Catalyst 8.12 drivers that will drop roughly a month from today.