Advanced Micro Devices, having just changed its Opteron CPU plans, has reportedly made a very intriguing promise in regards to its Heterogeneous Computing roadmap and the year 2014.
One of the main disadvantages of AMD's APUs (accelerated processing units) is that they cannot be used properly unless the software is specifically designed for them.
The current limitations of the architecture dictate that x86 and Radeon stream processing cores use dedicated memory, which is not famous for efficiency.
For this reason, the software has to know on its own when and how to use the resources available in the accelerated processing (APU) unit of a PC.
In other words, those highly parallel stream processors that are part of the integrated GPU can't accelerate tasks unless the application itself has the necessary functionality.
In 2014, AMD says this will no longer be an issue and that no programs will need special support features anymore.
More specifically, according to this report from X-bit Labs, the corporation expects to fully sync together the x86 and GPU components.
Basically, APUs will know on their own when a program will benefit from GPU acceleration, so they will make the switch between the x86 cores and the stream processors independently.
"Ultimately, as we complete our roll-out of heterogeneous system architecture, we will have a very fine-grain control of where is computing [performed], it is an optimization," said Mark Papermaster, chief technology officer of AMD, according to X-bit Labs.
Broader application support is just one of the advantages of this “true” heterogeneous computing. Another asset of the ability to dynamically choose between cores will be higher power efficiency.
Alas, 2014 is a fairly long time off, but there is a clear silver lining: previously, Advanced Micro Devices did not expect to complete these “fully fused” processors before 2015.
Now we just have to see how the new UPU architecture, which has a true hybrid processing/graphics cores, compares. For those unaware, UPU is the first truly new CPU architecture released in the past 20 years.