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Can A Linux Certification Payoff Financially?

August 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The Linux Foundation has announced an online certification programme for entry-level system admininstration and advanced Linux software engineering professionals to help expand the global pool of Linux sysadmin and developer talent.

The foundation indicated that it established the certification programme because there’s increasing demand for staff in the IT industry, saying, “Demand for experienced Linux professionals continues to grow, with this year’s Linux Jobs Report showing that managers are prioritizing Linux hires and paying more for this talent.

“Because Linux runs today’s global technology infrastructure, companies around the world are looking for more Linux professionals, yet most hiring managers say that finding Linux talent is difficult.”

Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin said, “Our mission is to address the demand for Linux that the industry is currently experiencing. We are making our training [programme] and Linux certification more accessible to users worldwide, since talent isn’t confined to one geography or one distribution.

“Our new Certification [Programme] will enable employers to easily identify Linux talent when hiring and uncover the best of the best. We think Linux professionals worldwide will want to proudly showcase their skills through these certifications and that these certificates will become a hallmark of quality throughout our industry.”

In an innovative departure from other Linux certification testing offered by a number of Linux distribution vendors and training firms, the foundation said, “The new Certification [Programme] exams and designations for Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) and Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE) will demonstrate that users are technically competent through a groundbreaking, performance-based exam that is available online, from anywhere and at any time.”

The exams are customised somewhat to accommodate technical differences that exist between three major Linux distributions that are characteristic of those usually encountered by Linux professionals working in the IT industry. Exam takers can choose between CentOS, openSUSE or Ubuntu, a derivative of Debian.

“The Linux Foundation’s certification [programme] will open new doors for Linux professionals who need a way to demonstrate their know-how and put them ahead of the rest,” said Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth.

Those who want to look into acquiring the LFCS and LFCE certifications can visit the The Linux Foundation website where it offers the exams, as well as training to prepare for them. The exams are priced at $300, but apparently they are on special introductory offer for $50.

The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux and collaborative development. It is supported by a diverse roster of almost all of the largest IT companies in the world except Microsoft.



Ready For Self-Assembling Robots?

August 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Wouldn’t it be strange to see a robot fold itself into arbitrary shapes and then just walk away?

Then add to the mix that it’s a laser-cut origami robot and you have the new robotic technology created by a team of engineers from Harvard, the Wyss Institute and MIT.

“The exciting thing here is that you create this device that has computation embedded in the flat, printed version,” Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, said in a statement. “And when these devices lift up from the ground into the third dimension, they do it in a thoughtful way.”

The technology, which mimics the way amino acids fold themselves into complex proteins, demonstrates scientists’ ability to cheaply and quickly build sophisticated robots that can automate their own design and assembly process, according to Harvard.

“Getting a robot to assemble itself autonomously and actually perform a function has been a milestone we’ve been chasing for many years,” said Robert J. Wood, a professor of engineering at Harvard and the Wyss Institute.

The universities contend that this is the first robot that can assemble itself and then perform a function — all without human intervention.

“Imagine a ream of dozens of robotic satellites sandwiched together so that they could be sent up to space and then assemble themselves remotely once they get there,” said Sam Felton, a Harvard doctoral student, who worked on the project. “They could take images, collect data and more.”

Researchers have been working on different pieces of this technology for some time.

In May, MIT’s Rus announced that scientists there had made progress on the promise of 3D printed robots.

The team created printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into three-dimensional configurations. The researchers also figured out how to build electrical components — like resistors and inductors — from these self-assembling materials.

MIT noted that the new self-assembling robotic work is similar, but a network of electrical leads, rather than an oven or hot plate, delivers heat to the robot’s joints to initiate the folding.

According to MIT, the new robots are created with five layers of materials, all of which are created by a laser cutter. The top and bottom layers are made of polymer, which folds when heated. Those polymer layers hold two layers of paper, which in turn hold the middle layer. That middle layer is made of copper etched into a complex network of electrical leads.

A microprocessor, batteries and tiny motors are attached to the top layer.

Researchers are trying to use either a single, two or four motors. Each motor, which is controlled by the microprocessor, controls two robotic legs.




Intel’s Broadwell Getting New Graphics Core

August 1, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel’s 5th generation Core processor family is condemned Broadwell and it is coming in Q4 2014 to select thin and light notebooks. It launches with the Y-series processor line (4.5W TDP) and it will expand to the H-series processor line with a max TDP of 47W by Q2 2015.

Naturally the new core is getting new graphics. The Y-processor line that launches first will come with Intel HD Graphics 5300 and this is the part that we meant when we said that 2014 Broadwell won’t be the full Monty. The first Broadwell core is not getting the new 6000 series Iris graphics core. That was the main compromise that Intel had to face in order to bring this processor to market in late 2014.

The follow up U-processor line will get two new graphics cores. The first one is Intel Iris Graphics 6100 and the second one is Intel HD Graphics 6000. There will another option as well , in the form of Intel HD Graphics 5500. The U-processor line limited to 15W to 28W SKUs is launching already in Q1 2015 and it will get the new 6000 series core.

The H-Processor line will get the fastest graphics option and the fastest core called Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200 seems to be the fastest option available. The H-processor line will also come with the Intel HD Graphics 5600 core.

Sadly, we didn’t get more about the actual specification. We just have the official designations and a timeframe, but at least we know when to expect them.



Intel’s 5th Gen Broadwell Coming In Three Flavors

July 31, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel’s 5th Core processor family, codenamed Broadwell, will launch in three lines for the mobile segment. We are talking about upcoming Broadwell 14nm processors that will start appearing in Q4 2014 and will continue to launch trough the first half of 2015.

The 5th generation Core 5Y70 and three other similar parts belong to the Y-line of processors. these are BGA processors with 4.5W TDP and they draw significantly less power than the Y-line of processors belonging to the Haswell generation. The Haswell Y-processor line has a TDP of 11.5W and 4.5W – 6W Scenario Design Power (SDP). Since Intel is doing fine with 4.5W TDP on Broadwell it doesn’t use the imaginary SDP rating for the 5th generation of Core processors.

Y, U and H-processor lines

The second to come is the U-Series line that comes in BGA and TDPs ranging from 15W to 28W. Remember Broadwell 5th generation Core has graphics inside as well, so these power figures sound quite good. It replaces U-series line of Haswell 4th generation parts that also has a TDP of 15W to 28W.

The last of 5th generation mobile processor family is the H-processor line that comes with BGA and whooping 47W TDP. This one is meant for the high end systems and Intel has U processor line with Haswell with the same TDP and a lower TDP version that had 37W maximum thermal dissipation.

No Broadwell M-series 37W, 47W and 57W parts?

One might notice that Intel doesn’t mention the M-processor line that is available in Haswell flavour, but this processor line is not mentioned in the current roadmap.

Broadwell 5th generation Core U-series line starts in Q1 2015, Broadwell 5th generation Core Y-series line starts in Q4 2015, while the H-series line starts appearing in Q2 2015.

Bay Trail-M also known as N-processor line with its 7.5W to 4.3W TDP and 4.5W and 2.5W Scenario Design Power will stick around until it gets replaced by more efficient Braswell designs in Q1 2015.


AMD’s Carrizo Goes Mobile Only

July 30, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s upcoming Carrizo APU might not make it to the desktop market at all.

According to Italian tech site, citing industry sources, AMD plans to limit Carrizo to mobile parts. Furthermore the source claims Carrizo will not support DDR4 memory. We cannot confirm or deny the report at this time.

If the rumours turn out to be true, AMD will not have a new desktop platform next year. Bear in mind that Intel is doing the exact same thing by bringing 14nm silicon to mobile rather than desktop. AMD’s roadmap previously pointed to a desktop Carrizo launch in 2015.

AMD’s FM2+ socket and Kaveri derivatives would have to hold the line until 2016. The same goes for the AM3+ platform, which should also last until 2016.

Not much is known about Carrizo at the moment, hence we are not in a position to say much about the latest rumours. AMD’s first 20nm APU will be Nolan, but Carrizo will be the first 20nm big core. AMD confirmed a number of delays in a roadmap leaked last August.

The company recently confirmed its first 20nm products are coming next year. In all likelihood AMD will be selling 32nm, 28nm and 20nm parts next year.


AMD Moving Quickly On Stacked DRAM APUs

July 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD is fast tracking stacked DRAM deployment and a new presentation leaked by the company  points to APUs with stacked DRAM, or high bandwidth memory (HBM).

AMD is calling the project “Fastforward” and it is all about boosting memory bandwidth on upcoming APUs. However, AMD is not talking about specific products yet and it is unclear whether HBM will be implemented on its upcoming Carizzo APU. This seems highly unlikely at this point for a number of reasons and if we were to speculate we would say HBM is coming to the next-next generation of AMD APUs.

Stacked DRAM APUs to deliver up to 128GBps bandwidth

Using two DRAM stacks AMD could boost bandwidth at an unprecedented rate. Two stacks would result in a 1024-bit interface and up to 128GBps bandwidth. GDDR5 maxes out at 32 bits and 28GBps. With one stack in play the results are somewhat lower, 512-bit bus and 64GBps bandwidth.

AMD says it is looking at 1.2V+ DRAM with 2Gb per stack and 4 DRAM modules per stack. However, the presentation states that AMD is currently conducting evaluations of “various architectures and interface options,” so it could be a while before we see what exactly it has in mind.

AMD’s Fastforward objectives

Stacked DRAM is just part of the story, as AMD’s Fastforward initiative is a bit broader. The company says its principle Fastforward objective is to investigate processor and memory technologies for exascale systems based on high volume architectures and open standards.

The end result should “provide significant benefits” to high volume markets and the chipmaker says it is “based on extending high volume APU architecture.”

The list of key technologies which are part of the fastforward project is quite long. HSA, stacked DRAM, new APIs, non-volatile memory and processing-in-memory are just some of them.


nVidia Releases CUDA To Server Vendors

June 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Nvidia has released CUDA – its code that lets developers run their code on GPUs – to server vendors in order to get 64-bit ARM cores into the high performance computing (HPC) market.

The firm said today that ARM64 server processors, which are designed for microservers and web servers because of their energy efficiency, can now process HPC workloads when paired with GPU accelerators using the Nvidia CUDA 6.5 parallel programming framework, which supports 64-bit ARM processors.

“Nvidia’s GPUs provide ARM64 server vendors with the muscle to tackle HPC workloads, enabling them to build high-performance systems that maximise the ARM architecture’s power efficiency and system configurability,” the firm said.

The first GPU-accelerated ARM64 software development servers will be available in July from Cirrascale and E4 Computer Engineering, with production systems expected to ship later this year. The Eurotech Group also plans to ship production systems later this year.

Cirrascale’s system will be the RM1905D, a high density two-in-one 1U server with two Tesla K20 GPU accelerators, which the firm claims provides high performance and low total cost of ownership for private cloud, public cloud, HPC and enterprise applications.

E4′s EK003 is a production-ready, low-power 3U dual-motherboard server appliance with two Tesla K20 GPU accelerators designed for seismic, signal and image processing, video analytics, track analysis, web applications and Mapreduce processing.

Eurotech’s system is an “ultra-high density”, energy efficient and modular Aurora HPC server configuration, based on proprietary Brick Technology and featuring direct hot liquid cooling.

Featuring Applied Micro X-Gene ARM64 CPUs and Nvidia Tesla K20 GPU accelerators, the new ARM64 servers will provide customers with an expanded range of efficient, high-performance computing options to drive compute-intensive HPC and enterprise data centre workloads, Nvidia said.

Nvidia added, “Users will immediately be able to take advantage of hundreds of existing CUDA-accelerated scientific and engineering HPC applications by simply recompiling them to ARM64 systems.”

ARM said that it is working with Nvidia to “explore how we can unite GPU acceleration with novel technologies” and drive “new levels of scientific discovery and innovation”.


Will AMD’s Mantle See Success On Linux?

June 20, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD is planning to bring its new Mantle API to Linux in the near future. Although Linux is not a big gaming platform at the moment, SteamOS could change all that starting next year.

AMD’s Richard Huddy says the decision was prompted by requests from developers who would like to see Mantle on Linux. However, he stopped short of specifying a launch date. Huddy confirmed that AMD plans to dedicate resources to bringing Mantle to Linux, but other than that we don’t have much to go on.

Mantle on SteamOS makes a lot of sense

Mantle is designed to cut CPU overhead and offer potentially significant performance improvements on certain hardware configurations. This basically means gamers can save a few pennies on their CPU and use them towards a better GCN-based graphics card.

However, aside from enthusiasts who build their own gaming rigs, the world of PC gaming is also getting a lot of attention from vendors specialising in out-of-the box gaming PCs and laptops. Many of them have already announced plans to jump the SteamOS bandwagon with Steam Machines of their own.

Should Mantle become available on Linux and SteamOS, it would give AMD a slight competitive edge, namely in the value department. In theory vendors should be able to select a relatively affordable APU and discrete GPU combo for their Steam boxes.

AMD already tends to provide good value in the CPU department. The prospect of using mainstream APUs backed by cheap discrete Radeons (or even Dual Graphics systems) sounds interesting.

It will take a while but the potential is there

Huddy told PC World that Mantle has some clear advantages over DirectX. Microsoft’s new DirectX 12 API has already been announced, but the first games to support it won’t arrive until late 2015.

“It (Mantle) could provide some advantages on Steam boxes,” said Huddy. “We are getting requests to deliver this high-performance layer.”

While DirectX 12 will be very relevant in the PC space, the same obviously cannot be said of Linux and SteamOS. Therefore Mantle on Linux makes a lot of sense. However, it all depends on AMD’s timetable.

Last month Valve announced Steam Machines would be pushed back to 2015. They were originally supposed to launch this summer and the first announcements were made months ago. The first designs were based on Intel and Nvidia silicon, but support for AMD hardware was added just a bit later.

When Valve announced the delay we argued that it could have a silver lining for AMD. It simply gives AMD more time to improve its drivers or add Mantle support, something Nvidia and Intel do not have to worry about.

It still remains to be seen whether Steam Machines can make a big dent on the gaming market. PC gaming is going through a renaissance, but the latest consoles are doing well, too (apart from the Wii U). The concept is very attractive on more than one level, but it is very difficult to make any predictions yet, since we are still about 15 months away from launch.


Why Were GPU Shipments Down In Q1?

May 27, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

According to Jon Peddie Research (JPR), shipments of discrete graphics cards were down in the first quarter of the year. This is in line with seasonal trends, as the market cools down after the holiday season.

The sequential drop was 6.7 percent, which was still better than the overall desktop PC market, which slumped 9 percent. However, on a year-to-year basis add-in-board (AIB) shipments were down 0.8 percent. PC sales were down 1.1 percent.
Nvidia still controls two thirds of the market

Total AIB shipments in Q1 were just 14 million units. AMD and Nvidia both saw their shipments decrease 6.6 percent, so their market share did not change much.

Nvidia controls an estimated 65 percent of the market, up from 64.2 percent last year. AMD’s market share in Q1 was 35 percent, down from 35.6 percent a year ago.

The overall volume remains weak and in the long run things could get even worse, as on-die integrated graphics have already taken a big toll on sales of entry level discrete cards. As integrated GPUs become even faster, they are likely to cannibalize the low end market even further.

JPR points out that the AIB market peaked in 1999, with 114 million units shipped. Last year saw only 65 million units and the stagnant trend is likely to continue this year.

It’s not all bad news for AIBs
Although the slump in discrete GPU shipments is hurting AMD and NV hardware partners, JPR offers a rather encouraging outlook.

It points out that graphics cards are one of the most powerful, essential and exciting components in the PC market today. PC gaming is hardly dead, in fact it is going through what can only be described as a small renaissance. PCs will offer 4K/UHD gaming years ahead of consoles and the Steam Machine concept is looking good, too.

The compute market is another driver, as JPR points out:

“The technology is entering into major new markets like supercomputers, remote workstations, and simulators almost on a daily basis. It would be little exaggeration to say that the AIB resembles the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”
The AIB market is quite a bit less colourful and eventful than it was back in the day, but at least AIBs still have a lot on their hands and they are trying to tap new markets.


nVidia Changes Tegra’s Focus

May 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

We spent a few weeks trying to find out what Nvidia has in mind for Tegra, as the company made quite a few sharp turns in its strategy. The first thing that happened is CUDA support, which is good for the security and defence markets, as it enables target recognition and similar tasks that can also be used for some peaceful technologies such as self-driving car.

Jetson is a cheap supercomputer base, but it is a very expensive microcontroller board. Apparently it is selling well, as it’s the fastest sub-10W supercomputer capable chip one can buy, and it costs $192. What Jen-Hsun Huang mentioned in the company’s financial Q1 2015 conference call is that Nvidia envisions “three growth drivers” for Tegra. They see Tegra in mobile devices, automotive and gaming.

Automotive is growing for Nvidia, but the company doesn’t really tell the world any meaningful numbers. Winning Tesla’s business means a few hundred thousand chips considering the fact that Tesla uses more than one Tegra chip per car. Tesla uses the old Tegra 2, something that the mobile devices market vaguely remembers. A total of 87 million cars were sold worldwide last year and there is a nice market opportunity for Nvidia there. Of course, the competition won’t stand still and let Nvidia conquer the automotive market unopposed, but we don’t see car manufactures changing Tegra for Qualcomm as quickly as this happened in mobile devices. Cars as platforms are built to last at least 5 years before any significant refresh and once you get a deal, you stay with the company for a while.

The other two catalysts that Huang mentioned, including mobile devices, might be a more troublesome component of Nvidia’s strategy. We simply cannot see Tegra K1 in any significant high-volume phone design in 2014. There are still some chances that Tegra K1 might end up in a few cool tablets, but it will be tough to land some top selling ones including the Nexus or Kindle Fire tablet refresh. In 2013 Qualcomm Snapdragon won both of these top selling tablets that are selling well. Gaming as a catalyst for Nvidia’s Tegra mobile strategy is a good playing card, but we are not sure how many Shield consoles you can sell. Nvidia has its own tablet, the Tegra Note 7, and probably a Tegra Note 8 in the works. However, these won’t outsell Google Nexus tablets anytime soon. Intel has big tablet plans to boost its market presence with 40 million units planned this year and Intel’s market development fund boosters are legendary and traditionally they work quite well with Taiwan, China, even US- and EU-based companies. Qualcomm and Mediatek have a strong presence in the tablet market, with Mediatek getting stronger every quarter especially in the lower end of the market. AMD wants a piece of Intel’s x86 tablet pie, too. It will be an interesting market to watch.

Since Tegra K1 doesn’t have an on board LTE it is a hard sell for phones in 2014. Top four phones in 2014 don’t have it as Samsung Galaxy 5, HTC One M8, LG G3 chose Qualcomm and Apple is using its own chips. Other top brands including Sony, Motorola are using Qualcomm for their high end phones. Even Chinese Xiaomi chose Snapdragon for its Mi3 phone, but there is a slim chance that there will be Tegra version too. China doesn’t really care about LTE, at least not yet. Nvidia might have a chance in the mainstream phone market, but its chances are not good. Mediatek is getting really strong in this market and Qualcomm has some great solution for this market as well. The Tegra 4i Gray chip has three design wins so far, Wiko Wax, LG G2 Mini in South America and security focused Blackphone. That’s simply not enough, not even close. At this point it seems increasingly likely that the Tegra 4i will not even have a successor.

Nvidia hopes that having two chips, one 32-bit based on Cortex A15 cores and one based on Denver 64-bit cores, might work. We will have to wait and see as the Tegra K1 has currently shipped only in the Jetson TK1 kit and the reason behind is probably the super high margin Nvidia can make with a $192 supercomputer board. We expect to see Tegra TK1 based products in June time, around Google IO. An 8-inch Tegra TK1 tablet would not surprise us, either. However, it’s not easy to be optimistic, as we simply don’t see a lot of potential design wins this year.


Will nVidia Enter ARM’s Micro-Server Market?

May 14, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A part of Nvidia’s Financial Q1 2015 conference call Q&A session included some questions about micro servers, whether or not the 64-bit Tegra K1 can make it into the GRID market.

Nvidia’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang was a straight shooter saying that Nvidia is “seeing a lot of interest in putting something like Tegra in micro servers,” but he added a caveat: “one step at a time, one step at a time.”

Jen-Hsun addressed the importance of the software component, or software stack for this market. He points out that the software stack Nvidia is building for GRID will eventually used on top of Tegra.

Denver could have what it takes

The Denver 64-bit architecture used in the Tegra K1 64-bit might have a shot in the micro server market as it will offer a lot of compute power and the CPU core should end up faster than the Cortex A57. Back at GTC 2014 we saw a demo at the GE booth where a single Jetson board hooked up to a camera over 10Gbit network port managed to trace a multiple targets at once.

The significance of such capabilities is that they can could easily find applications in the security market, drones, self-driving cars and all this can be done with close to 10W of power. Of course, this can be done with existing chips, but the CUDA powered Tegra K1 needs significantly less power to pull it off, which results in a much smaller footprint than say a 100W system that would handle the same task.

Eventually Nvidia could make a move in the traditional server market. The way things are going some 64-bit Cortex A57 servers might hit the market in early 2015 and Denver 64-bit might be the only custom based 64-bit ARM core ready at that time. Qualcomm’s 64-bit Krait is expected in the first half of 2015 and it might give Nvidia, AMD and other players a run for their money.

The server market is more than just chips and John Byrne, Chief Sales Officer at AMD, covered a few interesting points in a brief discussion with Fudzilla last month.

Does an ARM server push make sense for Nvidia?

In order to be successful in server market you need software, hardware, a great field application engineer network, customers that want to work with you and this is exactly why Calxeda failed. Nvidia has an advantage over Intel as it can do ARM based micro server, but then again, everyone else can. AMD is taking the ARM server market quite seriously and it has a lot more experience in the field than Nvidia.

Should Nvidia choose to proceed with an ARM server push, it will ultimately be a matter of research and development money that company can afford to put behind this risky strategy. Nvidia is making some progress with Tesla and Grid into the server market, but it will take some great products to convince Dell, HP and the rest of the market go your way.

In theory, Nvidia could leverage its compute software stack, but that’s only relevant in a handful of niches. AMD is targeting a much wider micro server market, while Nvidia could go after niche systems that would benefit from its compute tech. However, whether or not this niche is worth the investment remains to be seen. Both Nvidia and AMD can offer unique compute capabilities that could differentiate their ARM parts from the rest of the field (CUDA, Open CL), rendering their ARM server parts more competitive in a number of market segments.


Will HP Support AMD’s Kaveri?

May 6, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD launched the first Kaveri parts a couple of months ago, but the rollout has been limited. The company is currently selling just two desktop SKUs in retail. There are no mobile parts and there are no 45W desktop parts, either.

However, the first mobile Kaveri parts could be just around the corner and this would hardly be news were it not for the surprisingly low TDP. came across a curious HP leak which points to a new 19W part with some rather interesting specs.

Meet the A10-7300 low-power Kaveri

The part in question is the A10-7300, a quad-core rated at just 19W. We still don’t know anything about its GPU though, but the rest of the spec looks rather promising. The A10-7300 runs at 2GHz, but it can hit 3.2GHz on turbo. That compares well to older mobile APUs. The same HP laptop is available with the A10-5750M, which is a 2.5GHz part capable of hitting 3.5GHz with Turbo Core, but it’s a 35W part.

As for the GPU, we can only speculate at this point. When it comes to low-power APUs, AMD usually tries to keep the core count high and saves energy by reducing the clocks. For example, the A10-5545M, a 19W Richland quad-core, ships with 384 shaders clocked at 450MHz to 554MHz (the CPU is clocked at 1.7GHz/2.7GHz). The A10-5747M is a closer match, as it’s clocked at 2.1GHz/2.9GHz. It features 384 Radeon cores clocked at 544 to 626MHz, but it’s a 25W part.

We would be very surprised to see anything less than 384 GCN cores on quad-core Kaveri ULV parts. On dual-core designs with a single module the number should be 192, but AMD could surprise us.

Does it stand a chance against Haswell refresh parts?

AMD hasn’t had much luck in the mainstream mobile market for years and Kaveri isn’t about to change that overnight. However, the TDPs look quite a bit better and we’re expecting AMD’s integrated GPU to be as competitive as ever. After all, this is a 28nm part, we expected significant improvements.

It’s still not enough to make a dent on Intel’s market share, but Kaveri is starting to look a lot better than Richland. While it won’t be able to take on many Haswell SKUs, it should offer relatively good overall performance and value, with superior GPU performance as its main selling point.

AMD’s iGPU performance isn’t only a concern for Intel, as it has long-term implications on the discrete market. The attach rate is slowly going down as Intel and AMD pack ever more powerful GPUs into their mainstream parts. This is bad news for Nvidia, which has dominated the mobile discrete landscape for years. The need for low-end discrete GPUs in mainstream notebooks is disappearing fast.


RedHat Buys InkTank

May 5, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Red Hat has announced that it bought storage system provider Inktank.

Inktank is the company behind Ceph, the cloud based objects and block storage software package used in a number of Openstack cloud configurations.

Ceph will continue to be marketed alongside Red Hat’s own GlusterFS in a deal worth $175m, which the company does not believe will adversely affect its financial forecasts for the year.

In a statement, Brian Stevens, EVP and CTO of Red Hat said, “We’re thrilled to welcome Inktank to the Red Hat family. They have built an incredibly vibrant community that will continue to be nurtured as we work together to make open the de facto choice for software-defined storage. Inktank has done a brilliant job assembling a strong ecosystem around Ceph and we look forward to expanding on this success together.”

As part of the deal Ceph’s Monitoring and Diagnostics tool Calamari will also become open source, allowing users to add their own modules and functionality.

Inktank founder Sage Weil used his blog to assure users that the two storage systems will be treated with equal respect. “Red Hat intends to administer the Ceph trademark in a manner that protects the ecosystem as a whole and creates a level playing field where everyone is held to the same standards of use.”

Red Hat made the announcement fresh from Red Hat Summit in New York, where the company reaffirmed that it is the Linux distribution of choice at the CERN supercollider in Switzerland.

The Inktank deal is set to close later this month.



Can Mullins Help AMD Succeed In The Tablet Space?

May 1, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD has not had much luck in tablets, that’s no secret and Intel hasn’t exactly done a great job, either. For years mass-market tablets were powered solely by ARM-based chips, but last year Intel upped the ante with Bay Trail-T, arguably the first truly competitive x86 SoC in the tablet space.

This year it’s AMD’s turn. Mullins offers a big improvement over Temash, it delivers a lot more performance and a few new features that make it a lot more attractive than its predecessor. Performance is not an issue, either.

However, having a good product simply isn’t enough.

Why Mullins could succeed where other APUs have failed?

Mullins offers vastly superior efficiency compared to Temash. AMD started using the SDP metric last year, in response to Intel’s decision to use SDP for some of its mobile/tablet parts. However, AMD still uses TDP, too.

Mullins parts feature an SDP of 2.8W. AMD previously stated that Mullins would end up with an SDP of ~2W, roughly on a par with Bay Trail-T parts. The actual TDP is of course somewhat higher. Temash parts feature an SDP of 3W to 4W, but the TDP is about 8W. Mullins offers a huge improvement, with an SDP of 2.8W and TDP ranging from 3.95W to 4.5W. Thanks to STAMP and other efficiency tweaks, Mullins can deliver quite a bit more performance than Temash in the same thermal envelope, and then some.

For example, the Temash based A6-1450 packs four Jaguar CPU cores clocked at 1GHz and it can hit 1.4GHz on Turbo. The GPU is clocked at 300MHz, but it clock up to 400MHz on Turbo. However, the Mullins-based A10 Micro-6700T can hit a max CPU clock speed of 2.2GHz, while the GPU can reach 500MHz. This is not only much higher than what Temash was capable of, it is also higher than what we saw on mainstream Kabini APUs with a TDP of 15W, yet the A10 Micro-6700T is a 4.5W part.

‘Contra revenue’ is Intel’s biggest competitive advantage

AMD has been showing off its Discovery tablet platform for a while, but so far AMD-based tablets have been scarcer than hen’s teeth. Now that AMD finally has a truly competitive part that can take on Bay Trail-T, it would be logical to expect more design wins.

However, thanks to Intel’s ‘contra revenue’ scheme this won’t be easy. Intel insists it’s not doing anything wrong and it doesn’t like it when someone describes its tablet push as a massive subsidy programme. Ultimately, that’s what it really is. Just because Mullins could succeed doesn’t mean it actually will.

AMD is not thrilled by the prospect of more Intel subsidies and market development programmes. The company has been dealing with similar Intel shenanigans for almost two decades and it knows it cannot compete on a level playing field. AMD cannot afford to burn hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter to gain a few dozen tablet design wins. Therefore AMD is targeting a somewhat different market, mid-range $299 tablets. Intel is trying to grab everything from $99 to $299 with its tablet SoCs, while Haswell and Broadwell should take care of the higher end of the market.

Intel hopes to ship 40 million tablet parts this year. We don’t know what AMD has in mind, but it is probably not even close to 40 million. It will be tricky, but this time around AMD appears to have a truly competitive product. In addition, not even Intel can afford to keep spending $1bn per year on its tablet push, so we should see its contra revenue taper off moving forward.

Even so, it might give Intel a huge competitive advantage. Intel is on track to quadruple its tablet shipments this year. If it manages to double them next year it will end up with 80+ million units, which seems like a relatively conservative estimate at this point. Intel is stealing design wins from the likes of Mediatek, Rockchip, Nvidia and so on. AMD will have to steal them back from Intel, which sounds a bit more difficult, even with competitive products.


Can AMD Lead In The GPU Arena?

April 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

He is one of the drivers behind AMD’s transformation, with the ultimate goal of turning the chipmaker into a new organization that is not so heavily dependent on the PC market. John confirmed that the company is on the road to achieve a huge milestone in its transition plans, generating approximately 50 percent of its revenue from the non-PC market by the end of 2015.

The time for the talk could not been better, as the market reacted positively to AMD’s Q1 earnings and at press time the stock was at $4.14, up $0.45 or 12.06 percent which is a huge jump for a tech stock. Keep in mind that many tech stocks have been bearish over the last four weeks, with several massive selloffs, especially in software and internet companies.

AMD fighting back in CPU space

We covered numerous topics from desktops, notebooks and tablets strategy all the way to the server, semi-custom APUs and of course the graphics market.

John said that leadership in the graphics sector is critical in AMD’s strategy, none more so than in the PC space where AMD wants to use their performance APU’s to compete with Intel’s Core i3 and Core i5 processors in the lucrative mainstream market. This is what AMD wants to address with Kaveri and to some extent with Kabini APUs.

AMD has high hopes for its upcoming server parts where they just launched their first ARM 64-bit product for the dense server space, where AMD expects to be a leader. On the other side of the spectrum the frugal AM1 platform launched a few weeks ago and it is getting very positive reviews. The first Kaveri parts have been on sale for a while, although we would like to see more desktop SKUs, not to mention mobile Kaveri APUs, including ULV variants.

Semi-custom APUs are blurring the line between AMD’s traditional product classes, but sales appear to be good, with more than 12 million Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles in the wild.

Phenomenal discrete GPU sales

Byrne is quietly confident when it comes to the GPU market, having just seen very strong sales in the performance and enthusiast high end segments of the market. The surge was driven by competitive products, great games and bundles, even with the cryptocurrency craze which was more or less a fluke for AMD.

The company remains committed to the GPU market, and expects to bring the successful R9 / R7 architecture further down into the mainstream price points in 2014, with similar traction. This means AMD will continue the fight against Nvidia in desktop and notebook GPU markets, while at the same time taking on Intel on desktop and notebook side with new APUs.

AMD thinks that the mix of great gaming performance, HSA, Mantle, Open CL, compute performance and some cool technologies like facial recognition can boost its position in the GPU market. This is just one part of the magic potion that is really starting to work for AMD, but it’s good to know that when it comes to graphics and gaming, AMD will stay committed to these markets in 2014 and beyond.

Enthusiasts need not worry. Although the company is reinventing itself and pursuing non-PC revenue streams, AMD will still be there to cater to their needs.