AMD unveils ‘world’s first hardware-based virtualised GPU’

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To date, the only picture of the AMD Multiuser GPU is of a
single height card.

AMD has made its long awaited entrance to graphics virtualisation with what it describes as the world’s first hardware-based virtualised GPU solution. Designed for servers, the AMD Multiuser GPU can support up to 15 concurrent users on a single card.

AMD’s big sell for its Multiuser GPU is that it was built from the ground up for virtualisation, directly inside the silicon. According to AMD, this means the GPU can ‘deliver consistent and predictable performance’, which sounds like a sideswipe at Nvidia and its GRID technology, which AMD says uses software to virtualise its GPU.
AMD Multiuser GPU is built around the SR-IOV (Single Root I/O Virtualisation) technology, which provides a standardised way for devices to expose hardware virtualisation. In data centre environments SR-IOV is already used to virtualise devices such as network adapters.

AMD says up to 15 users can be supported on a single Multiuser GPU, though this is for so-called ‘knowledge workers’ using office applications. For CAD/CAM/CAE workflows it will be more like 6-10 users with 2-6 users supported for graphics intensive design applications.

AMD Multiuser GPU is designed to work in environments using VMWare vSphere/ESXi 5.5 and up, with support for remote protocols such as Horizon View, Citrix Xen Desktop, Teradici Workstation Host Software, and others. It appears that it will work in GPU passthrough mode.

AMD says the same graphics driver used for FirePro GPUs in local workstations can be installed and used in this virtualised environment. We imagine this should make ISV certification a relatively easy process. A mix of graphics and compute tasks can also be performed on a single GPU at the same time, using OpenGL, DirectX and OpenCL.

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The company also stresses that there are no additional per-seat software costs from AMD beyond the purchase of the AMD Multiuser GPU.

AMD has yet to release specifications of its Multiuser GPU, but it’s interesting to note that the only image we have seen to date is of a single height card. We imagine there will be multiple variants of AMD Multiuser GPU for different types of users and servers.