AMD, ARM team up to push Heterogeneous Systems Architecture

AFDS — A few months ago, we gave you the low-down on AMD’s Heterogeneous Systems Architecture, or HSA for short: a development target platform for chips with integrated CPUs and GPUs and shared memory, like AMD’s Fusion APUs. In February, when we last spoke to the company about the subject, AMD was hoping to turn HSA into an open, industry-wide standard. 

Left: AMD Corporate Fellow Phil Rogers. Right: ARM Fellow Jem Davies.

Fast-forward to this morning, and AMD seems to have gotten its wish. In partnership with ARM, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek, and Texas Instruments, AMD has created the HSA Foundation, a non-profit organization tasked with the evangelization and development of the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture. Or, in the words of AMD’s announcement:

The HSA Foundation is a non-profit consortium established to define and promote an open, standards-based approach to heterogeneous computing that will provide a common hardware specification and broad support ecosystem to make it easier for software developers to deliver innovative applications that can take greater advantage of today’s modern processors.

According to AMD, the HSA Foundation will also be tasked with bringing development tools, libraries, and operating-system runtimes to market. It will promote the HSA architecture through developer training and academic programs, as well. Through those activities, AMD hopes to make HSA “the platform of choice from smartphones to the cloud.”

So far, AMD’s contributions to the HSA Foundation include the draft HSA specs, an open-source execution stack and compiler, a standard template library, and initial funding. As we noted in February, AMD’s roadmap calls for the progressive extension of the HSA standard with new features over the next couple of years.

There’s no question that ARM jumping on board is a huge deal. At this morning’s keynote, ARM Fellow Jem Davies asserted that HSA is a “natural fit for ARM” because it, like AMD, delivers integrated CPU and graphics architectures. Considering the humongous popularity of ARM-based solutions across everything from set-top boxes to tablets, ARM’s participation has the potential to give the HSA Foundation tremendous momentum.

Comments closed
    • Madman
    • 7 years ago

    I see a small problem with this, imagine i7 extreme and GTX680 crammed together on a single chip. Slipped schedules, abysmal yields, crazy thermals…

    Unless… consoles kill PC gaming once and for all…

    So this can only work for mobile/tablet market. And this is where Nvidia has something similar, no?

      • pogsnet
      • 7 years ago
        • NeelyCam
        • 7 years ago

        And that’s just the thing: Intel has no reason to buy NVidia because NVidia wouldn’t really bring anything to Intel that Intel didn’t already have, except maybe an arrogant and flamboyant CEO

      • designerfx
      • 7 years ago

      umm, consoles will never kill PC gaming. The two things are not mutually exclusive.

    • shaurz
    • 7 years ago

    AMD should make multi-core ARM processors with Radeon GPU, like their own version of Tegra.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      Imageon/Adreno says “ohai”

      Except AMD sold that stuff off in the ATi acquisition. Now they have to start over.

    • rrr
    • 7 years ago

    -Broadwell is rumored to cram CPU and SB onto one die.
    -AMD has pretty extensive roadmap of unification CPU + GPU (with stuff like same address space for both and GPU context switching in the future)
    -and now this

    Integration clearly is the future.

    • Firestarter
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]and broad support ecosystem to [b<]make it easier for[/b<] software developers to [/quote<] I feel someone had previously meant this to say 'enable', and this person got overruled. Feels good man.

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    Could be very interesting… or could just be another “standards” body that goes nowhere. The products that come out of this will tell more than rich soup of TLAs will.

    • ew
    • 7 years ago

    This is an affront to traditional definition of marriage between a CPU and another identical CPU! I will not support these heterogeneous civil unions. Quick, someone legislate my opinion before it becomes too unpopular.

      • moresmarterthanspock
      • 7 years ago

      “Uhh, you said Hetero. Uhh huh huh huh.” (meanwhile, Beavis picks his nose then says, “Are you threatening me? Boioioioing! I am the great Cornhetero!)

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    So, what exactly does this mean? Is this like an alternative for x86?

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      Seriously, I reread the article, read the comments, and I still don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish.

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 7 years ago

        They’re trying to make it look like AMD has a chance. This is AMD’s only argument for success in a world increasingly defined by Intel. In short, you’re either Intel or you’re non-Intel and so you’re ARM.

        Well, AMD is neither Intel nor ARM. AMD, scrambling for something to latch onto, is trying to get ARM to help them seem relevant because they can’t keep up fab-wise or tech-wise with either the incredible performance of the Intel world or the incredible power sipping of the ARM world.

        AMD is losing because Intel hit the “Fusion” market harder than they’d expected, their chips were delayed by a year or more across the board, they’re having fabrication headaches that keep them from getting good yields for a year or more after they finally do get their chips out, they can’t hit the low power of the ARM chips (or the prices), and their GPU advantage over Intel is evaporating due to Intel’s constant tick’ing of the GPU.

        In short, AMD’s sitting still and Intel’s moving rapidly to catch up in the one area AMD has an advantage. In this state of affairs, all AMD has is price to help keep it afloat, but price is a horrible way to stay competitive when you’ve got a much cheaper, much smaller and lower power option coming to a Windows device near you with Windows 8. To try and stem the hemorrhaging bloodloss, they are trying to make it look like they can still be relevant even when they’re no longer making the CPU.

        Of course, if all AMD bought ATI for was to make GPU’s, well that was really a piss poor investment for the entire industry’s sake.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 7 years ago

    As impressive as that list of companies is at first glance, it’s curiously missing exactly those who are one step ahead of the game in highly integrated SoCs – Samsung, Qualcomm, and Nvidia.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite set the stage for the sort of AMD + ARM coalition vs. Intel that it might imply.

    This comes across more as AMD looking to put their foot in the door so they have the option to license their CPU and GPU designs for future SoCs. In other words, potentially more of an admission of defeat than the start of something truly next generation.

    Still interesting, and we all still benefit, but kind of a question of whether the glass is half full or half empty on AMD’s side of things…

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      I’m not sure why you’ve been downranked, because you’ve put forward some compelling reasoning for your argument.

      I’m still a glass half full guy though, and I hope you’re wrong.

      • Geistbar
      • 7 years ago

      Well it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. AMD and friends are doing this because they need something to help get ahead competitively. Samsung et. all don’t need to get further ahead because they’re already at the top; why would they take a risk on something like this when they don’t need to yet? If this becomes successful, they can all jump aboard easily enough. If it fails, they haven’t wasted any resources on a failed endeavor.

      I wouldn’t consider it a surprise at all that the more powerful players aren’t on board yet.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        Also, I seriously doubt Nvidia would team up with AMD even if it was in their best interests.

      • thesmileman
      • 7 years ago

      Ummm, Texas Instruments and Img Tech are really big players in the SOC space. TI is very very quiet about its design wins and but they have a lot in the private and public sector. Also Img Tech is way ahead in terms of raw performance and performance/watt.

      I think many many more big players including some of those mentioned will join this. AMD has been playing this close to the chest and only invited a few founding members but wants more very soon.

      I think you are reading this completely wrong. This is about making their chosen future solution succeed and it will not without tools, support and acceptance from the general community.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]This is about making their chosen future solution succeed and it will not without tools, support and acceptance from the [b<]general community.[/b<][/quote<] They didn't need much of anything to do with the "general community" in the past, and after buying out ATI and finally getting around to selling their "Fusion" chips, why should they suddenly need it now? They were on the verge of being completely self sufficient. But then they suddenly spun off their foundry business, and as soon as the "Fusion" brand kicked off, they killed it and moved to this, obviously with SoCs in mind. Yet they were supposed to have their own x86 SoC, and that was canned. It's just one suspect change of gears after another. The problem here is not that I'm saying they won't have a future, but that this alleged "chosen future" is a constantly moving target that flies right in the face of everything they'd claimed to have been leading up to for so many years. [quote<]Ummm, Texas Instruments and Img Tech are really big players in the SOC space[/quote<] So are the others, but this is about improving integration, not who is a big player for whatever other reason. None of those companies have done things like build a modem into a CPU. They're either designing particular parts for others or slapping the designs of others together...and then there's AMD, the odd man out.

          • NeelyCam
          • 7 years ago

          [quote<]None of those companies have done things like build a modem into a CPU.[/quote<] That's a different topic altogether - integrating a noise-sensitive analog block like a modem onto a digital logic chip is very different from integrating more and more logic onto the same chip and developing software around it.

    • Welch
    • 7 years ago

    I’m interested in the prospects of this…. Good luck guys, now get to work on HSA!

    • Zorb
    • 7 years ago

    ARM & AMD could develop a very interesting and open next gen solution.

      • mutarasector
      • 7 years ago

      It would be good to see a truly open HSA hardware architecture.

    • Dposcorp
    • 7 years ago

    So, will Intel join, or try to develop there own similar thing?

      • Goty
      • 7 years ago

      I would guess not, since they’re still trying to promote their MIC approach AFAIK.

      • Welch
      • 7 years ago

      If history means anything, they will try to create their own. But this time with ARM involved, its not going to be the usual smack down that Intel has made AMD suffer with “standards”.

      • bcronce
      • 7 years ago

      Knight’s Corner is a step in the direction, but doesn’t mean they’ll integrate. It would be interesting to have a quad core normal CPU with 32 weaker CPUs attached, along with a GPU. This is what HSA is all about.

      Or it’s about a health savings account.. not sure.

      • Washer
      • 7 years ago

      Intel’s been doing this for awhile now, that’s what Knight’s Corner was about, that’s kind of the goal with a Atom becoming a SoC. Honestly it’s AMD who is late to the party and that’s utterly bizarre because isn’t this exactly why they acquired ATi. This standards body comes across as “we couldn’t get it done on our own” to me. Too of their closest competitors are part of it after all in ARM and Img Tech, along with TI.

      If there is one trend you can notice in the companies who are joining is they’re fabless except TI. It would seem the companies who have the ability already to be highly vertical either don’t want part of it or will play the wait and see game.

        • pogsnet
        • 7 years ago
          • Washer
          • 7 years ago

          Knight’s Corner will work along with one of Intel’s traditional CPUs (if it ever shows up), this is exactly the goal of AMD’s HSA initiative. There is no requirement for a GPU, the GPU has simply been AMD’s best route to building a highly parallel processor to join their CPUs. Similarly you could see an AMD CPU paired with an ARM CPU in the same system, that’s still an HSA configuration without a GPU.

      • IMS_Malta
      • 7 years ago

      Err.. Intel already license ARM Technology and are a major shareholder in the UK chip design firm which brought to the World in 1988 the Worlds first ARM powered Reduced Instruction Set Desktop Computer, the ACORN Archimedes later re launched as the RicsPC running RiscOS under StrongARM 2. Its open bus technology allowed a 2nd Intel CPU to run Windows 95 in native mode inside a RiscOS Window. That was mega cool at the time. But RiscOS did not run Windows or Office 95 back then.

      If only the Windows developers would drop CISC and write all new code in RISC the world would be a cooler, more compact and one heck of a faster place for use computer users!!!

      ARM chips are everywhere, EXPECT of course Desktop computers, but that is the wonderful world of money, where the best product often fails in mass market wars and the technically inferior often wins.

        • fergdog
        • 7 years ago

        You’re really out of date with your RISC vs CISC comparison, both intel and amd have internal RISC cores now with a x86 decoder. I’m sure it still has some sort of power penalty, but nothing near as drastic as you’re talking about.

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