AMD dons white coat for HSA processing breakthrough

AMD has unveiled a CPU-GPU integration technique that it reckons could boost processing power by over 20 percent.

The method does not involve buckets of liquid nitrogen and waving goodbye to your PC warranty.  Alongside engineers at North Carolina State University, AMD has increased processing speeds without overclocking, instead finding a way to more intelligently assign workloads between the CPU and GPU.

It is not the first example of CPUs and GPUs getting crammed onto a single chip. AMD has already been doing so with its Llano processors, while Intel’s also fitted the graphics processor onto its main chip with Sandy Bridge.

It appears that AMD is looking one step ahead and has produced a system that involves much more closely working processing units. It appears to be linked to the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture plan stretching out to 2014.

Even though the CPU and GPU are already housed on the same chip, Dr. Huiyang Zhou, the author of a NCSU paper on the chip design, reckons that there is still woefully little interaction between the two.  Zhou says it has been the aim of the research to resolve this problem.

With CPUs doing the brain work, and GPUs generally providing the processing muscle, Zhou and AMD have been working on more intelligent workload assigning.  This means allowing GPUs to execute computational functions, with the CPUs pre-fetching the necessary data from off-chip memory.

Both CPUs and GPUs can pick up data from off chip memory just as niftily, but GPUs are much quicker at ploughing through it all. Basically, AMD and Zhou reckon they increase speed and efficiency by letting CPUs and GPUs get stuck into their specialist roles.

In preliminary tests this has worked to an impressive effect.   According to Zhou, the approach allowed processor performance to improve by an average of 21.4 percent.

Intel may have a seemingly unassailable lead over its competitor, but if AMD is about to bring these increases to bear any time soon then it will certainly give Intel more of a run for its money.

TechEye has approached AMD about commercialisation of chips using this technique.  We’ll let you know just as soon as we hear back from Intel too.