AMD to erupt Volcanic Islands GPUs as early as Q4 2013?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | May 8, 2013 - 09:32 PM |
Tagged: Volcanic Islands, radeon, ps4, amd

So the Southern Islands might not be entirely stable throughout 2013 as we originally reported; seismic activity being analyzed suggests the eruption of a new GPU micro-architecture as early as Q4. These Volcanic Islands, as they have been codenamed, should explode onto the scene opposing NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 700-series products.

It is times like these where GPGPU-based seismic computation becomes useful.

The rumor is based upon a source which leaked a fragment of a slide outlining the processor in block diagram form and specifications of its alleged flagship chip, "Hawaii". Of primary note, Volcanic Islands is rumored to be organized with both Serial Processing Modules (SPMs) and a Parallel Compute Module (PCM).

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So apparently a discrete GPU can have serial processing units embedded on it now.

Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) is a set of initiatives to bridge the gap between massively parallel workloads and branching logic tasks. We usually make reference to this in terms of APUs and bringing parallel-optimized hardware to the CPU. In this case, we are discussing it in terms of bringing serial processing to the discrete GPU. According to the diagram, the chip within would contain 8 processor modules each with two processing cores and an FPU for a total of 16 cores. There does not seem to be any definite identification whether these cores would be based upon their license to produce x86 processors or their other license to produce ARM processors. Unlike an APU, this is heavily skewed towards parallel computation rather than a relatively even balance between CPU, GPU, and chipset features.

Now of course, why would they do that? Graphics processors can do branching logic but it tends to sharply cut performance. With an architecture such as this, a programmer might be able to more efficiently switch between parallel and branching logic tasks without doing an expensive switch across the motherboard and PCIe bus between devices. Josh Walrath suggested a server containing these as essentially add-in card computers. For gamers, this might help out with workloads such as AI which is awkwardly split between branching logic and massively parallel visibility and path-finding tasks. Josh seems skeptical about this until HSA becomes further adopted, however.

Still, there is a reason why they are implementing this now. I wonder, if the SPMs are based upon simple x86 cores, how the PS4 will influence PC gaming. Technically, a Volcanic Island GPU would be an oversized PS4 within an add-in card. This could give AMD an edge, particularly in games ported to the PC from the Playstation.

This chip, Hawaii, is rumored to have the following specifications:

  • 4096 stream processors
  • 16 serial processor cores on 8 modules
  • 4 geometry engines
  • 256 TMUs
  • 64 ROPs
  • 512-bit GDDR5 memory interface, much like the PS4.
  • 20 nm Gate-Last silicon fab process
    • Unclear if TSMC or "Common Platform" (IBM/Samsung/GLOBALFOUNDRIES)

Softpedia is also reporting on this leak. Their addition claims that the GPU will be designed on a 20nm Gate-Last fabrication process. While gate-last is considered to be not worth the extra effort in production, Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator (FD-SOI) is apparently "amazing" on gate-last at 28nm and smaller fabrication. This could mean that AMD is eying that technology and making this design with intent of switching to an FD-SOI process, without a large redesign which an initially easier gate-first production would require.

Well that is a lot to process... so I will leave you with an open question for our viewers: what do you think AMD has planned with this architecture, and what do you like and/or dislike about what your speculation would mean?

Source: TechPowerUp

May 8, 2013 | 10:03 PM - Posted by Hk (not verified)

Although we must take this with a sea of salt, assuming these specifications are true, there's multiple implications:
1. This architecture is not going to be replaced anytime soon (think 5 years).
2. GDDR6 is farther away than previously thought.
3. x86(assuming those serial cores are it) processors as a dedicated silicon might see the end soon.

May 8, 2013 | 10:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

i dont believe that the cores are x86...the reason that they have the serial processing cores is becuase gpu cores are bad at calculations with multiple branches, so the serial processors are for calculations which would otherwise be done slowly on a parralell processing gpu core.

May 8, 2013 | 11:11 PM - Posted by Hk (not verified)

it's possible they add at least one or two x86-64 modules, since they created the extension, assuming the chart is correct. However, it'll be a cut down set of cores, just to make the PCIe TDP headroom, which, by the way, is in some serious need of updating.

May 8, 2013 | 10:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous XP (not verified)

AMD supporting Websites fakes AMD Fanboys WorldWide: AMD's Answer to GeForce GTX 700 Series: Volcanic Islands

TSMC 20nm products exclusive for AMD only in 2013 - pushing Nvidia out of the GPU Business !!!

May 8, 2013 | 11:09 PM - Posted by Hk (not verified)

I did not know PC Perspective entertained retards and trolls. We need some banning done here. In other, relevant news, AMD's always been first to new nodes since 90 nanometer. It's nothing surprising, realy, if they end up releasing this in Q4 with a 20 nm fabrication process. They'll just have to be a little more careful with the leakage due to shrinking, that's all.

May 8, 2013 | 11:25 PM - Posted by Bill Gates (not verified)

The lava from this gpu will melt Nvidia thus eliminating Nvidia in the gpu world.
Haswell is the competitor for sea islands since haswell are waterproof.
They should name the amd 9990 "Of Elimination" / "its over 9000!"

May 8, 2013 | 11:33 PM - Posted by Anonymous D (not verified)

If you want more insight, I suggest taking a look at the forums. There you can see that this "leaked" block diagram is just a color-inverted form of a diagram that's been around for a while.

May 9, 2013 | 12:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I thought the next-gen graphics card from AMD was code named "Sea Islands" for the HD8xxx series coming out late 2013, or am I missing something?

May 9, 2013 | 04:55 AM - Posted by Oskars Apša (not verified)

Seems to me that AMD is fully dedicated to bring us its promised PC platform, that can be upgraded with both cpu and gpu computational power without switching the main CPU or APU.
So if you/I need more power of any kind, just ad a G-CPU card to gain the needed performance.

May 9, 2013 | 08:50 AM - Posted by Anonymous XP (not verified)

Based on an AMD interview on Rage3D the customer currently spreading through the web, AMD's "Volcanic Islands" graphics chip generation would already appear this year in the 20nm technology. Whether this have said so interviewed AMD employees would, however, be doubted, and is at least not clean assignable because Rage3D have the interview is not reproduced in the original, but only a summary offer - which may also include some of my own thoughts & inserts so of course, without this being immediately recognizable. Probably is AMD's statement only that the next graphics chip generation this year appears - and Rage3D have mistakenly "Volcanic Islands" listed on this point, although the next GPU architecture from AMD according to previous AMD roadmaps doubt on "Sea Islands" reads.

Then, when reading this and other websites bring the "Volcanic Islands" graphics chip generation with the earlier vermeldeten 20nm manufacturing these graphics chips together, the message will end up out of it quickly, AMD would already begin this year with 20nm graphics chips. It should not be denied that AMD and nVidia would like to do this - only the possibilities of contract manufacturer TSMC leave this year still pretty sure no large graphics chips to 20nm. TSMC is likely to be rather glad to get to the end first 20nm SoCs in mass production - up to 20nm graphics chips is assuming another (at least) several months way. Of course we can at this point belonging wrong - only that probability is clearly against 20nm graphics chips already in 2013 (even in 2014 will see the rewards of not exactly rosy.

In connection with this, the rumor about an alleged AMD "Hawaii" 20nm graphics chip has appeared with 4096 shader units and 512-bit DDR memory interface at WCCF Tech and other websites below. This is based on an alleged block circuit diagram of that Hawai GPU - which in itself but shows an APU processors with 16 cores together with the connected iGPU with 1024 shader units and 512-bit DDR memory interface, but only for DDR3 memory. Moreover, that block circuit diagram seems to have been a pure idea of ​​any Board member at the end of what could be achieved in a maximum APU approach because in the upcoming 20nm manufacturing. With a Volcanic Islands-based GPU thus this has nothing to do for two reasons: First, because it is a pure assumption - and secondly because it is an APU and not a pure GPU.

*mastrdrver*: Everyone realizes that this picture is about a year old and posted by the same person about a year ago?

May 9, 2013 | 12:21 PM - Posted by mAxius

xbit has a completely different take folks this could be a Kavari apu or an engineers wild fantasy time will tell.

"The chip could easily be a next-generation Kaveri-like APU for high-end desktops as well as servers with 16 integer cores, 8 floating point units, L3 cache, graphics engine with 1024 stream processors as well as eight-channel DDR3 memory controller with ECC (which should actually support GDDR5 memory as well, based on previously published information). "

May 9, 2013 | 03:10 PM - Posted by ZoranICS

I quite like the new style of writing guys! :) Good job!

May 10, 2013 | 05:48 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

As previously mentioned xbitlabs is reporting that these are indeed 8 modules(16 cores) based on steamroller. It makes sense. AMD is not yet building anything for arm except servers, arm doesn't use modules, they have said they won't make chips for android and the graphics are too high end for an arm chip

May 10, 2013 | 06:48 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Even at 20 nm 8 modules would take up a lot of space.  Now, if they have greatly simplified Bulldozer cores that have crap for IPC, then they could cut them significantly down in size to fit in such a large design.  Still, I give this rumor about a 25% chance of being right.

May 11, 2013 | 11:45 AM - Posted by Anonymous XP (not verified)

Let's see... hmmm. I give this rumor about a 0,25% chance of being right.