“Fusion is the combination of many decades of computing. It’s the fusion of CPU and GPU compute within one processor, significantly enhances active/resting battery life, and provides high bandwidth IO.” Joe Macri, AMD chief technology officer, said. Macri spoke of the project last week at a reviewers’ day at the Lone Star facility in Austin, TX.
AMD first spoke of Fusion years ago when it had drawn up the first plans for the project. Unfortunately, the plans were canceled. Then, a second attempt was made, this time bent on using the 45nm process in the developments. For reasons of its own, Advanced Micro Devices gave up on this second attempt as well. Part of the reason may have been the rapid advancements in the field of 32nm, which Intel will also be using for its own projects.
Fusion is dubbed this way because it will merge the tasks computed by the CPU and the GPU. In so doing, AMD hopes it will be able to better compete with Intel's devices. Seeing how Intel did not have a license for any extraordinary graphics technology (with its best integrated graphics circuits just barely able to do more than just display the desktop), the enterprise decided to take advantage of ATI's resources and explore this particular area that Intel, up to that point, could not.
“We went to multicore because we knew we could exploit that area. But with GPUs we needed to run things in parallel. We’re at three teraFLOPS today but they’re almost working in team, one on latency, and one of bandwidth,” Macri said. “On a single die you can do many things that two chips talking to each other on a narrow channel really can’t do. We believe why we’re in a really good position. We’re taking two world class teams and merging them together. The APU (accelerated processor unit) is truly a supercomputer on a chip.”
The technology is also expected to be very power-efficient, even allowing laptops to run for an entire day on battery alone. Of course, this will also depend on the battery's quality, but even the best of those available today couldn't get even close to 24 hours of life.
We can, thus, see that, if it can't overcome Intel only through CPU power, AMD will simply pack more resources and application support into a single unit. As such, graphics and computing tasks will no longer be performed by distinct components that require a certain type of platform to run at their full potential. Fusion will turn motherboards in mere mediators between the CPU and the peripherals, while no longer having an impact upon performance.
“The best hardware is hardware you don’t notice. [...] The computing win will be a set of hardware that will allow content providers to produce applications, a bathtub filled with apps, some of which we can think about today, and some of which we can’t. [...] In 2010 we’ll see six hour battery life and in 2011 we’ll see an additional boost as Fusion comes in,” Macri concluded.
The first sample APUs are expected to be finished by the end of 2010, with actual releases being scheduled for 2011.