Advanced Micro Devices has released a graphics chip (called FireStream) that is designed specifically to crunch large amounts of data. Now, this sounds redundant. But let me explain: weâ€™re not talking about graphics or physics engines here, unless youâ€™re referring to the type that predict, plot, and otherwise try to understand the composition of storms, weather patterns, etc.
The idea is this: with the advent of such powerful graphic processor chips being used in PCs already, the game and video graphics arenas are not the only genres that can benefit from the advanced computational capacities of these GPUs. While graphics chips arenâ€™t well suited for running operating systems, spreadsheets, document processing applications, and other mundane programs, they may be perfect for extrapolating data from massive calculations, like the ones that predict the weather.
These kinds of meteorological, physical, and scientific calculations require crunching huge amounts of mathematic equations, something AMDâ€™s graphics chips do already.
â€œPeople want interaction in games to be more realistic, so a lot of the underlying physics turns out to be similar to what you want to do with real-world simulation.â€ Said AMDâ€™s Chief Technology Officer Phil Hester.
The newest models of graphics processing chips boast hundreds of processing units that work in parallel, which makes them great for number-crunching. They also often have more transistors and are more powerful than a PCâ€™s main central processing unit.
FireStream is a precursor to a much larger AMD project called Fusion that will attempt to combine a graphics processor on the same silicon slide as a CPU. This could revolutionize the performance aspect of Laptop computers, amongst other things. FireStream is based off of the high-tech graphics chips used in AMDâ€™s Radeon products, and is expected to cost quite a bit. It has 660 million transistors and 320 processing units and will feature 55-nanometer circuitry. This makes the 65-nanometer circuits used in AMDâ€™s current CPUs seem clunky by comparison. Look for it in the computer of a scientist or other such brainy person in the near future.