AMD's plan: Alone and with partners
When it comes to merging GPUs and CPUs more elegantly, "it turns out a lot of it is under our control," said Moore in a Q&A session.
"We have an internal road map for how we will handle the coherency support and the unified virtual address space and eventually offer context switching on the GPU," Moore said. "That said, we have to work with OS partners to make sure the I/O memory management unit is comprehended in the OS," he said.
AMD has already proposed extensions to the PCI Express standard so that you can tunnel protocols over it. The company plans to use the approach to run coherent Hypertransport over Express to closely link CPUs with external graphics chips.
On the software front, AMD has defined a low level interface for developers it calls the Fusion System Architecture Intermediate Level (F-SAIL).
"We are committed to keeping F-SAIL consistent so all the stuff above it doesn’t have to change when we change something," Moore said. "The trick is to define the abstractions correctly," he added.
AMD already has reference software implementations for the Microsoft DirectCompute and Khronos Group's OpenCL runtimes that ride on top of F-SAIL. It is partnering with a growing number of domain libraries in and beyond video that use the parallel programming runtimes.
"We bet heavily on OpenCL and DirectCompute," said Moore. "There's a lot of hope this stuff suddenly comes together, but it takes time to mature and it's in our interest that it matures as soon as possible," he said.
To accelerate the work on end user applications that show the value of its chips, AMD has started a Fusion Fund and has engaged with "tens of companies" who are potential partners. So far it has only made relatively small investments in a handful of them in the form of money, boards and support. AMD hopes to get other partners involved in the Fusion Fund.
"In 2011 you will see some [Fusion apps] start to come to life, and that’s just the start of the work," said Moore. "They key thing is to get a couple apps out and demo their advantages--that will start a virtuous cycle," he said.
At least one analyst said the lack of compelling apps for the AMD processors could be an Achilles Heel. Intel is expected to embed hardware support for video transcoding in its Sandybridge processors shipping next year. That capability, along with AMD's lack of novel apps, could blunt the perceived advantages of the new AMD processors.