Is ATI prepping general-purpose GPUs?

ATI may very well be planning to introduce some general-purpose graphics processors under the “FireStream” brand. At least, the folks at Beyond3D seem to think so: they’ve noticed “FireStream 2U (R580 724E)” and “FireStream 2U (R580 724F)” entries in the X server log generated by ATI’s Linux drivers. Factoring in ATI’s apparent interest in general-purpose computing on graphics processors, the evidence does seem to add up:

First consider the ATI SIGGRAPH ’06 presentation on what they call a Data Parallel Virtual Machine, using a recently released ‘close to the metal’ API, built specifically for general purpose GPU computing (GPGPU). Then consider that ATI have spent significant resources on GPGPU since the inception of the R5-series of GPUs, lastly bearing in mind that stream processing is a class of problem that exploits massive [parallelism] of a device, and it seems logical that FireStream is a product using a 3D GPU but is not for the explicit purpose of drawing pixels.

Since the log entries say “R580,” and a look for “724E” and “724F” in ATI’s vendor ID page reveals Radeon X1900-series products, these FireStream graphics processors could be based on current silicon. However, Beyond3D speculates that they will be released with different PCI Express configurations for systems with PCI-E x1, x4, and x8 slots, and that they may not have display outputs at all.

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