AMD is introducing a high-performance chip package that uses a technology commonly found in graphics processors, called parallelism, and applies it to general purpose computing.
Parallelism breaks computing work into individual tasks that are worked on by a processor concurrently, or in parallel, instead of one after the other, as many general purpose processors do today.
Parallelism has been in use for a long time in graphics chips from companies like ATI and Nvidia. AMD, which bought ATI last year, says the technology also works well for some types of mathematical computation, so it is using it to speed up other applications.
Called the FireStream 9170, the chip package is aimed initially at high performance computers (HPCs) like those used by scientists for climate research and oil exploration, and by financial analysts for advanced number crunching. But it could also be used more widely in the enterprise for tasks like video-editing and security tasks, AMD says.
The 9170 will offer up to 500 gigaflops of computing power, according to AMD, or about 100 times the performance of one of its dual core Opterons. It will be offered in new computers, but it could also be added to an existing server or workstation with a PCI Express 2.0 x16 interface.
Software applications will need to be modified to take advantage of the FireStream's architecture, and AMD will release a software developer kit along with the chip package for application tuning.
AMD calls the computing style Stream Computing, and it began life at ATI before it was bought by AMD. ATI announced the first Stream product last year, but AMD didn't work hard to promote it. It is throwing more weight behind the second iteration.
The FireStream is being manufactured on an advanced, 55 nanometer manufacturing process and will use a "double precision" floating point technology for scientific and engineering calculations. The processor board includes 2GB of GDDR3 (Graphics Double Data Rate 3) RAM, a type of memory designed by ATI, and consumes under 150 watts of power, AMD says.
AMD has also announced it has joined Hewlett-Packard's HPC Accelerator Programme, suggesting the product will be offered in computers from HP.