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AMD’s Fusion: What it means for PC gaming

So… all the web is abuzz with talk of AMD’s announcement at this year’s CES – Fusion Render Cloud computing.

AMD has previously announced plans for a fusion product line – essentially, one where the CPU and GPU are combined on the same chip. Fusion Cloud computing, while not necessarily a replacement of this concept, is a marked re-imagining of it. The plan is to combine more than 1,000 ATI Radeon HD 4870 GPUs with matching Phenom II processors and AMD 790 chipsets into “the fastest graphics supercomputer ever.”

The reactions are, in a word, comical. Tom’s Hardware thinks Fusion will destroy the market for home-user graphics cards. Wired takes a more cynical approach, declaring it the stuff of science fiction. Bit-Tech kept it professional, more or less, merely pointing out that, “The demo was run across a wired network and not through the Internet which makes us wonder just how steep the requirements are.”

The reality of the situation is that AMD isn’t stupid. They aren’t going to destroy one of the only markets that they’re still competitive in. Here’s my take on it:

What Won’t Happen:

  • AMD won’t cannibalize it’s own sales – their Fusion Cloud won’t replace discrete graphics cards in personal gaming rigs,
    Fusion Cloud Demo - windowed game

    Fusion Cloud Demo - windowed game

    not by a long shot.

  • Even if AMD were to give up discrete cards in favor of Fusion Render Cloud computing, limited end-user bandwidth and lag would reduce PC gaming to a low-res joke. Nvidia would destroy them, and in 12 months ATI would be announcing another line of discrete cards.
  • The Fusion Cloud won’t turn PC gaming into graphical paradise – streaming high-quality graphics at 1920×1200 with all the eye candy turned up would require an internet connection somewhere around 1 Gigabit/sec – the absolute best consumer connections in the US are perhaps four or five percent of that.
  • Fusion Cloud computing won’t eliminate the necessity of constantly upgrading one’s graphics card to stay cutting-edge.

What Might Happen:

  • AMD will offer premium streaming services of near-HD content (read: likely 1-2 Megabit/sec streams, perhaps as high
    Fusion Cloud Demo - contd

    Fusion Cloud Demo - cont'd

    as 4-5 Megabit/sec streams) like movies and select games at reduced resolutions (800×600, anyone?). Look for a tiered, monthly subscription-based service – like the HBO of the internet. Possibility: 90%

  • The main selling point of the Fusion Cloud will be the ability to seamlessly transfer from one viewing source to another. Start a movie or game on your cellphone or laptop, finish it up on your HDTV when you get home. Possibility: 100%
  • After popularity of Fusion Cloud increases, AMD will introduce more of the graphical supercomputers to meet demand, perhaps even working with regional ISPs to optimize bandwidth requirements, which will prove enormous. Possibility: 50%
  • If popular enough, Fusion Cloud computing may be incorporated into a next-generation game console. This would hinge on widespread adoption of the service and a monumental increase in bandwidth available to the average consumer, and isn’t all that likely. Possibility: 10%
  • Regardless of future applications, Fusion Cloud will likely remain a niche service. Graphical demands will outstrip available bandwidth for the foreseeable future, rendering the service incapable of replacing end-user graphics muscle. The main advantage of off-site rendering is the ability to access service capabilities from anywhere with an internet connection. Possibility: 80%
  • AMD will eventually release a chip version of Fusion, combining CPU and GPU on one chunk of silicon. It will only be
    AMD Fusion

    AMD Fusion

    practical for low-power usage such as mobile devices, as trying to combine two high-heat chips in a notebook or, heaven forbid, desktop product would be asking for processor failure. Possibility: 80%

What Will Absolutely, Definitely Happen:

  • AMD fanboys worldwide will cheer at the release of the Fusion Cloud, and immediately dump their HD 4970 1 GB FTW cards in the nearest trash can. Twelve minutes after it opens, Fusion will go down due to overloaded servers. The Nvidia enthusiasts will scoff, and lovingly pat their GTX 395+ Super Rad Edition graphics cards. Then they’ll pull their hands back, because the card is burning hot.
  • Six months after the release of Fusion Cloud, all games will be removed from their servers in favor of the easier to host and cheaper to render high-definition videos. AMD fanboys will organize scavenging parties and go looking through dumps for their old cards. Nvidia will release the GTX 55890 (each numeral means something significant, they assure you) and the Nvidia crowd will all drop $600 each for their new cards, proclaiming it the greatest thing since sliced bread.
  • Fusion Cloud computing will barely register as a blip on the PC gaming hardware radar. Twenty years from now, tech writers will regularly include it in lists of failed technologies.
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January 12, 2009 - Posted by | Gaming, Tech | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Why dont AMD build the most powerful Processor ever.
    Simply move the GPU inside a SingleCore CPU as added
    extension.

    CPU x86 L1 SSE
    GPU Shaders etc
    L2/GRAM 512MB 512bit 2000MHz

    Yowsa fps!
    Check Mate Intel and Nvidia. gg

    Comment by u6 | April 26, 2009 | Reply


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