With the reddit AMA now behind us, we can share with you some of the answers that we felt were the highlight of the question period. As expected, AMD was a bit light on details and specifics about Polaris but there were a number of important and new pieces of information.
The biggest news is that Polaris will be using the 14nm LPP FinFET process from GlobalFoundries, not a mix of 14nm LPP and 16nm FinFET+ from TSMC as previous leaked. This means Nvidia and AMD will no longer be sharing a process node for their CPUs. It also means that AMD’s GPU and CPU lineups will now be using the same process, simplifying things for APUs. Furthermore, the Taiwan earthquake that hit TSMC won’t impact Polaris yields and timeline as well. Polaris is also confirmed once again for a mid-2016 launch. Polaris will also bring Display Port 1.3 support as well.
Another confirmation is the move that AMD started in 2014 with a big annual driver release with major feature additions spaced out with point releases for specific fixes and optimizations. Those hoping that RTG would speed up driver updates to implement more features faster will be disappointed. For hardware, Fiji Gemini has already debuted for B2B customers and shipped to them but consumer launch is still waiting for HMD VR, a mistake in my mind.
Other tidbits include the fact that the LiquidVR SDK has support Affinity Multi-GPU which will allow a dedicated GPU for each eye in VR. VR is also expected to make use of TrueAudio, something that PC has shunned but consoles have picked up a bit on. There are also 25 million active daily users for AMD’s Gaming Evolved application.
Finally, AMD revealed that the optimal tessellation amount for GCN is 8-16x. Beyond that, there will be a heavy performance hit for no real gain in visual fidelity *cough* HairWorks/GameWorks. VSR or virtual super resolution is also performance free with GCN. There will be more Polaris details as we get closer to launch so stay tuned.
When AMD launched their new Radeon Software Crimson Edition 3 weeks ago, it was actually using a beta version of the Radeon drivers. Today, AMD has updated Crimson to use official v15.30 WHQL drivers with Crimson v15.12. Along with official WHQL status, the new release also includes a numbers of fixes and improvements over the beta driver bundled with the original Crimson launch.
Chief among the fixes is the one where some AMD cards were stuck at 30% fan speed. This caused some cards to overheat under load and become physically damaged. The WHQL drivers include the hotfix that AMD quickly released to address the issue. You can find the full changelog here.
On the other hand, some other issues still remain. For overclockers, the most galling is one where clock speeds and voltages don’t get applied properly after a reboot. This appears to be an incompatibility between AMD Overdrive and third-party tools like Afterburner.
While the launch of Radeon Software Crimson Edition was pretty good overall and ushered in a new era for AMD, things look like they were a bit rushed. For such an important release, it may have been more worthwhile for AMD to have waited to get WHQL certification before launching.
While AMD’s graphics hardware has largely remained competitive with rival Nvidia, the software side of things has fallen behind for a while. A large part of this is due to Nvidia’s GameWorks software, a proprietary set of tools that helps developers implement features. While AMD cards can run GameWorks optimization is near impossible to do and AMD cards generally get crippled by it. Today, AMD is hitting back with GPUOpen, a comparable library of tools they will be open-sourcing.
With the open source GPUOpen, the permissive MIT-licence will allow developers to optimize for both AMD and Nvidia and still use only one set of tools. AMD is hoping this will mean developers will be more likely to pick GPUOpen over GameWorks and optimize more for AMD cards. AMD has included equivalents to most of GameWorks, with TressFX, ShadowFX, GeometryFX and AOFX. It will also feature a number of other tools like a rendering engine, ray-tracing SDK, cloud SDK and AMD’s CodeXL debugger and performance profiler.
The final prong is a new open-source Linux driver. Right now, the Linux driver comes in two flavours with the closed source one performing well ahead of the open-source on. Moving into the future, the AllOpen stack will have open-sourced OpenGL graphics, motion video codecs, and OpenCL GPU computation. The Professional/Gamer stack will have an open source motion video codec, but closed source OpenGL and OpenCl modules. Over time, the OpenCL module will bring in Vulkan which will then be open sourced while the OpenGL module will remain closed-source.
Combined with the earlier Boltzmann Initiative, AMD is making big strides with their software development. Combined with their new Crimson Catalyst software suite, AMD is putting forward a new face to consumers and developers. With this, AMD may be able to reinvent themselves and make others see them in a new light.
Big changes are happening down at AMD with the creation of the new Radeon Technologies Group announced earlier. While such a move will probably pay dividends in the future, it does nothing to solve current issues. In the short-term, AMD looks to be getting a major investor to tide them over till their 2016 products launch. What is interesting is that it’s a private investment firm known for acquiring companies and taking them private.
According to a report, Silver Lake, the same firm that helped Michael Dell take back his company, is set to take a 20% stake in AMD. At this point, it is unknown how Silver Lake will be acquiring those share, with purchases either from other investors, on the open market or from AMD. AMD itself only owns 18.9% of their shares so the new 20% stake will probably come from a variety of sources. If AMD does issue new shares or sell their own shares, that will raise some much-needed cash to boost R&D as well as other expenses.
If Silver Lake does invest in AMD, it will join the likes of Alibaba, Avago, GoDaddy, Motorola Solutions and Opera Solutions as firms which Silver Lake has invested in. With a 20% stake, Silver Lake may get a seat on the board of directors and more restructuring will probably occur as AMD struggles in the face of stiff competition.
Thank you Fudzilla for providing us with this information
When a company is in trouble, one of the many steps it can take is to reorganize for better efficiency. For the much-besieged AMD, siloing the relatively more successful GPU business from the CPU division is their latest attempt to return to profitability. Named the Radeon Technologies Group, the new group will be headed by renowned graphics guru Raja Koduri who has been promoted to Senior Vice President and Chief Architect of the new division.
Radeon Technologies Group will comprise of the graphics technologies used to drive discrete GPUs, APUs, and semi-custom products like those used in consoles. As head, Koduri will oversee everything from hardware to software and from development to marketing. This continues the trend of letting engineers lead which was kickstarted when Lisa Su became CEO, herself being an engineer. Koduri has had a long pedigree in the graphics sector, moving from S3 to ATI and later on AMD and Apple before returning in 2013.
Ever since AMD bought out ATI all those years ago, there has been an internal struggle between the CPU and GPU divisions in terms of resource allocation. It became apparent that the two sides did not work too well together given how long it took the reason for the ATI purchase, the APUs, to come out. Another issue was that despite a strong showing on the GPU side, the profits were being diverted to shore up the CPU side, leading to reduced investment on the GPU side that has now become apparent. Separating the two sides should allow them to both respond to the market faster and better utilize their resources.
With the siloing of the different divisions, AMD becomes more of a holding company, with relatively segregated units each targeting a different sector. Given the investments in APUs and semi-custom solutions though, we should still expect co-operation between the CPU and GPU units. Hopefully with the arrival of Greenland and Zen for 2016, both the CPU and GPU divisions will be able to stand strong on their own and even if one side should fall, the other half should survive. It wouldn’t be surprising if there is a shuffle on the CPU side of things as well so stay tuned!