Professional hardware, ray tracing take the spotlight at Siggraph

— 6:00 AM on August 5, 2009

The Khronos Group has been making a fair amount of noise at Siggraph, but it's not the only one. AMD and Nvidia have also made several announcements, mostly centering on the professional software and hardware markets. New ray-tracing tech, new mobile workstation GPUs, and new hardware bundles—you name it, they've got it.

Let's start with shiny spheres on checkerboards ray tracing. Yesterday, Nvidia announced OptiX, a "programmable ray tracing pipeline" that developers can tap into using "traditional C programming." Optix works in conjunction with Nvidia's Quadro professional graphics processors, which accelerate the ray-tracing rendering process in real time. Neato.

Nvidia says it unveiled the technology simultaneously with three other software engines:

  • NVIDIA® SceniX™ engine for managing 3D data and scenes
  • NVIDIA® CompleX™ engine for scaling performance across multiple GPUs
  • NVIDIA® PhysX® 64-bit engine for real-time, hyper-realistic physical and environmental effects
  • SceniX and CompleX are already available on the firm's developer site, while OptiX and PhysX 64-bit will follow this fall. Nvidia doesn't intend to charge for any of them.

    In other Siggraph software news, AMD has announced plans to bring OpenGL 3.1 and 3.2 support to its FirePro workstation graphics processors. OpenGL 3.1 support will become available in a new batch of drivers on August 12, while OpenGL 3.2-compatible drivers will be out at an undisclosed point in the future.

    What about hardware? AMD has something new there in the form of the FirePro M7740, a new mobile workstation GPU that Dell will add to its Precision M6400 notebook. AMD's website doesn't list specs beyond a 1GB frame buffer, but we should learn more by the time the M7740 becomes available later this month. For now, Dell continues to offer the Precision M6400 only with Nvidia Quadro FX GPUs.

    Nvidia is also touting a new bundling deal: Tesla GPUs have made their way into HP's Z800 workstation. At least, Nvidia says that system can be configured with up to two Tesla cards, and a look at the detailed spec sheet for the Z800 workstation would seem to confirm that assertion. As far as we can tell, though, the build-to-order page doesn't let you select Tesla GPUs as auxiliary parallel processors just yet.

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