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Integration is key to enabling the computing revolution, says AMD

There has been, in the opinion of AMD, a revolution in computing, with graphics and visualisation playing an ever increasing role.

The revolution started in high end products, but has extended to the consumer and embedded markets.

But AMD says the revolution hasn't stopped and it believes next step will see computing engines fade into the background. This will require a lot of intelligence within devices, as well as connectivity.

Kamal Khouri, director of embedded products with AMD Embedded Solutions, said: "The next step will be surround computing, where graphics become immersive and users interface using natural gestures. It's a huge opportunity for AMD, but it requires new ways to solve problems and new architectures."

AMD's solution is the recently announced Embedded G-Series SoC platform – which integrates a cpu, a gpu and an I/O controller. The launch is the next step in the evolution of AMD's industrial product offerings – from discrete cpu, chipset and dedicated graphics devices to an integrated x86 building block.

So what benefits can developers expect from the G-Series SoC platform? Khouri said: "Our current offering is the G-Series accelerated processing unit (apu), along with an I/O controller hub, both made on a 40nm process. The apu is a dual core x86 device based on AMD's Bobcat technology, while graphics are supported by Radeon 6000 technology.

"The G Series SoC is a 28nm device and it's not just integration, it's also an upgrade. The four cpu cores are based on Jaguar technology and the graphics are handled by a Radeon 8000 gpu. We've created the world's first x86 quad core SoC."

The Embedded G-Series was introduced in 2011, when AMD integrated cpu and gpu into an apu. The two chip solution – which needed to be accompanied by a companion I/O controller hub – offered high multimedia and parallel processing performance on a low power platform.

The introduction of the Embedded G-Series SoC platform is said by AMD to build on the G-Series processor architecture and reduces the two chip G-Series APU to one chip. At the same time, it is said by AMD to delivers superior performance per Watt in the low power x86 capable microprocessor class of products when running multiple industry standard benchmarks.



What's new?
The SoCs will be available in dual and quad core variants, both manufactured on a 28nm process. AMD's next generation 'Jaguar' cpu core will be used, as well as an enhanced integrated AMD Radeon gpu.

Offering an increase in operating frequency and the number of instructions per cycle, G-Series SoCs offer a cpu performance improvement of up to 113%, compared to G-Series apus. AMD also believes the part provides 2.25 times the cpu performance of an Intel Atom when comparede on industry standard compute intensive benchmarks.

New features in the platform include enhanced Universal Video Decode hardware acceleration (including H.264, VC-1 and Mpeg2) and new video encode capabilities with enhanced clock gating and C6 'deep power down' capabilities that lower overall power consumption. G-Series SoCs also support remote wireless displays with minimal latency.

Another new feature is support for error correction code (ECC). AMD says this has generally been limited to power hungry processor platforms, but adds the evolution of a new class of energy efficient, compute intensive x86 IT infrastructure and precision control systems makes ECC increasingly important. Khouri noted: "ECC makes the G Series SoC suitable for use in 'mission critical' applications in a range of sectors."

Improved graphic capabilities
The integrated gpu supports DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.2 and OpenCL 1.2, enabling high speed parallel processing and high performance graphics processing that provides an improvement of up to 20% over G-Series apus. Because of the support for these computing frameworks, a range of software development options with advanced graphics APIs becomes available.

OpenCL enabled cpu/gpu parallel processing is said by AMD to be particularly beneficial in high precision applications such as industrial control and automation, security and surveillance, and communications infrastructure. In these applications, OpenCL APIs can access an integrated cpu with a compute power of 256GFLOPs per clock.

Meanwhile, seamless DirectX 11 and OpenGL support complements the G-Series SoC's DisplayPort 1.2 enabled dual independent display capability, providing high resolution multi display support for graphics driven applications spanning digital signage, digital gaming, thin client and human machine interface.

Smaller footprint, simplified layout
In terms of footprint, Embedded G-Series SoCs require 33% less board space than the two chip G-Series apu solution. The SoC comes in a bga which measures 24.5mm x 24.5mm, or 600mm2. The G-Series apu FT1 and controller hub requires 361mm² for the apu and 529mm2 for the controller hub – a total of 890mm2. Apart from saving board space, the SoC solution is said by AMD to streamline design cycles and to help in lowering the bill of material. A further benefit is the potential to reduce the number of pcb layers required, as well as simplifying the power supply design.

"Because G Series SoCs are available with single figure thermal design power (TDP)," said Khouri, "engineers can also consider fanless designs, focus of bill of materials reduction and finalising the design. And G series SoCs are suitable applications where the previous two chip solution couldn't be used."

Ideal fit for SFF form factors
AMD says this single chip approach means the G-Series SoC should bring new levels of performance to small single board computer and COM form factors designs, enabled in part by the reduction in the number of pcb layers needed. This helps designers to implement the G-Series SOC platform more easily and cost effectively in small form factor board designs such as Pico-ITX, Qseven, PCIe/104, ETX and COM Express. Additionally, the integrated I/O controller offers expansion capabilities that address a range of market needs by supporting PCIe, SATA and USB 3.0, as well as other mainstream I/O interfaces.

Offering a number of of dual and quad core options, power consumption (TDP) ranges from 9W to 25W. Khouri highlighted the low power consumption. "We will be able to go to less than 9W," he claimed. "We're not announcing that yet, but it will be coming soon. "Low TDPs allow customers to focus on reducing the BoM and finalising the design."

There is pin compatibility across the product family, allowing OEMs to use one board design to enable solutions that scale from the entry level to high end products, with the potential for significant cost savings. A further attraction is the G-Series SoC will be available for use in temperatures ranging from -40 to 85°C.

But the G-Series SoC also plays to AMD's target of diversifying its business away from the pc. Having wrestled for many years with Intel, AMD has now set itself the target of generating 20% of its annual revenues from embedded and semi custom business by the end of 2013.

Khouri said AMD – under the guidance of new ceo Rory Read – is now looking to move away from its traditional markets towards some new, higher growth sectors. "The G-Series SoC opens new markets to AMD which it hasn't addressed before," Khouri concluded. "Included in these are industrial control, networking and infotainment. The G-Series doubles our addressable market."

Author
Graham Pitcher

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