AMD unveils hardware-virtualised GPU product line

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AMD gave its hardware virtualised Multiuser GPU (MxGPU) technology a first public airing in September 2015 and has now unveiled its first products: the AMD FirePro S7150 and AMD FirePro S7150 x 2.

For design and engineering, these server-grade GPUs are designed to accelerate 3D CAD in Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environments, much like Nvidia does with Nvidia GRID.
The AMD FirePro S7150 series GPUs will be used inside datacentres in rack workstations and servers where they can be ‘virtualised’, allowing multiple CAD users to share GPU resources.

AMD’s big pitch for its MxGPU technology is that it has been developed over a number of years specifically for use in virtualized environments.

Rather than repurposing an existing GPU and adding a software layer to accommodate virtualisation requirements, AMD says its MxGPU technology features an entirely new class of GPU architecture with virtualisation capabilities built into the silicon.

AMD says the key benefits of its MxGPU technology are ‘consistent performance’, ‘enhanced security’ across virtual machines (as one VM can’t access another VM’s data), ease of implementation and cost.

In addition, as each VM’s guest OS sees the virtual GPUs as native graphics devices, they can use AMD’s native FirePro graphics driver – the same driver used in the company’s workstation FirePro GPUs.

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This means the GPU can be used for graphics (OpenGL and Direct X) and compute (OpenGL) and, importantly, it should also make CAD software certification straightforward, an AMD spokesperson told DEVELOP3D.

PTC has confirmed that Creo is currently being certified but we expect AMD is also working with other CAD software developers, including DS (SolidWorks) and Siemens (NX).

AMD says its virtual GPUs are designed to work in GPU passthrough mode and there are no per user licensing fees, which means ‘outstanding performance per dollar’.

AMD’s MxGPU technology is compliant with the well-established virtualisation standard, SR-IOV (Single Root I/O Virtualization). Already used for network controllers and storage devices, it allows VMs to share a single PCIe hardware interface.

AMD states that, as long as the hypervisor (the software that creates and runs the VMs) supports the SR-IOV standard, there are no additional requirements from the hypervisor to manage virtualisation on the GPU.

At launch, AMD says its first Multiuser GPUs will support the VMware product stack, but additional hypervisor support is planned for the product later.

The single height AMD FirePro S7150 GPU features 8GB of GDDR5 memory while the double height AMD FirePro S7150 x2 card features 16GB of GDDR5 memory (8GB per GPU).

The two cards can support up to 16 and 32 simultaneous users respectively, but for 3D CAD these numbers are likely to be between 2-6 and 4-12.

Both cards are expected to be available from server technology providers in the first half of 2016.