AMD aims supercomputer at mobile gaming, movies

The massively parallel "Fusion Render Cloud" machine is intended to deliver high-definition content to mobile devices.

Jon Skillings Editorial director
A born browser of dictionaries and a lifelong New Englander, Jon Skillings is an editorial director at CNET. He honed his language skills as a US Army linguist (Polish and German) before diving into editing for tech publications -- including at PC Week and the IDG News Service -- back when the web was just getting under way, and even a little before. For CNET, he's written on topics from GPS to 5G, James Bond, lasers, brass instruments and music streaming services.
Expertise language, grammar, writing, editing Credentials
  • 30 years experience at tech and consumer publications, print and online. Five years in the US Army as a translator (German and Polish).
Jon Skillings
2 min read
AMD Phenom II

The Consumer Electronics Show tends to be about small gadgets, the kind that fit in the hand or a pocket, or at least don't take up too much space on a desk or TV stand.

For Advanced Micro Devices, however, CES 2009 was an opportunity to talk about a supercomputer, the sort of high-tech machinery that even today tends to require at least a modest-sized room.

AMD said Thursday that by the second half of the year, it will be ready to go with the massively parallel "Fusion Render Cloud" supercomputer. And where supercomputers typically are used for rather wonky projects in energy research, weather forecasting, and such, the AMD machine is intended to help in the "deployment, development, and delivery" of high-definition content--and this brings us back to CES--to mobile devices.

Think video games and movies. Says AMD:

The system is being designed to enable content providers to deliver video games, PC applications and other graphically-intensive applications through the Internet "cloud" to virtually any type of mobile device with a web browser without making the device rapidly deplete battery life or struggle to process the content. The AMD Fusion Render Cloud will transform movie and gaming experiences through server-side rendering - which stores visually rich content in a compute cloud, compresses it, and streams it in real-time over a wireless or broadband connection to a variety of devices such as smart phones, set-top boxes and ultra-thin notebooks.

To deliver on that promise, chipmaker AMD is working with a company called Otoy that specializes in software and special effects for the video game and film industries.

The Fusion Render Cloud will use AMD gear including the Phenom II processors, AMD 790 chipsets, and ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics processors. It is being designed to break the petaflop processing barrier--in layman's terms, to run with the fastest of the fast supercomputers--and "to process a million compute threads across more than 1,000 graphics processors," AMD said.

Cloud computing is one of the most loudly proclaimed topics in information technology these days. Although there are a number of interpretations of what it entails, the basic idea is that applications and heavy-duty processing live in some centralized data center, connected to via the Web, taking much of the workload off individual PCs and other devices.