AMD gets back in the development game with OpenCL tools and drivers - Continued
Putting everything else aside; recently I had the chance to talk to Michael Chu who works with ATI Stream Computing software and benchmarking. Originally he was to brief me about the new performance improvements in OpenCL computing that are showing up in Sisoft's SANDRA 2010 benchmark. In the opening of the conversation Michael talked about ATI Stream as a whole, but we quickly got off of that track and into the real meat of the discussion; was the new performance numbers due to the 5870, or did AMD rewrite their compilers to better take advantage of the 58xx series architecture?
His first answer was that it was due to the 5870, but then did admit that AMD had worked hard on the compliers to organize the code properly to better use the available Stream Processors on the 5870. When I asked about the Vec5D and its limitations, I was told quite plainly that AMD is looking into moving to a more "homogenous" architecture in the future for their GPUs. Of course, this move will take time and some R&D to get done (it is easier to make the Vec5D). Still, it is an indication that even AMD knows that the current design has limitations and might not be the best choice moving forward.
My next question sort of threw them, I directly asked how the $1.4 Billion settlement will affect AMD's R&D and direct development help for games and OpenCL. I got the answer I expected, Michael could not talk about the settlement. However, this was followed by a statement saying that AMD is committed to OpenCL moving forward. They see OpenCL as a gateway to moving the GPU fully into the CPU and providing the proper balance between their abilities to process instructions.
Now, to some this may seem like a typical PR statement, but hearing the words spoken gives you something more than seeing them in print. For me I heard that AMD is coming back to the game table. The financial difficulties of the past few years are still there and affect everything that AMD does, but things are changing. Even if they cannot directly comment on it, that $1.4 Billion was important to AMD, very important. With it they can now reassign money that would have normally had to be put toward paying off debt and can dump it back into development on projects like OpenCL and efficient compilers for games.
To me (and many) this is a very good thing as it means we will see better games with the increased competition. AMD still has a long way to go, though; the new SDK and OpenCL components are still in Beta and only partially complete. I hope they are able to get them finished up in time for the start of 2010. After all, efficient OpenCL support for the Vec5D is not only a gateway to GPU on CPU, but it is also the gateway to Physics, AI, Positional Audio, Ray-tracing and more on AMD GPUs.
The 5xxx series from AMD is impressive; there is no doubt about it. But the even better news is that AMD is now able to get back in the game to provide efficient tools for developers of games and other code types to take advantage of it. I hope we see a lot more from the ATI Stream team as well as more games with the AMD logo on them.