Last week at SIGGRAPH 2016 in Anaheim, AMD announced its new “workstation class” graphics cards under the new brand name Radeon Pro WX. While AMD may have scooped up Apple’s business with the new Mac Pro back in 2014, beyond that signature FirePro win the company’s workstation card line up has failed to steal the thunder from rival NVIDIA.
And to be quite frank about matters, AMD likely believed back in 2014, when Apple chose its workstation cards for the basis of the D300, D500 and D700 twin GPUs in the new Mac Pro, that such a deal with Apple would shine some attention its its product line in addition to score success in shipments of the new Mac.
Virtual Reality Drives Workstation Market
The hot growth in VR on both the video game side and the content creation side—which has just a rich if not richer opportunity in industries beyond gaming—is clearly driving up demand for high-performance GPUs and powerful workstation computers. People need machines that can meet the specs for Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
AMD looks to undercut rival NVIDIA with its very expensive Quadro GPUs. The new Radeon Pro WX cards deliver VR-ready graphics at sub $1,000.USD prices. The new Radeon Pro WX cards are based on the Polaris, 4th generation Graphics Core Next architecture.
Cards in Detail
The new Radeon Pro WX (Workstation eXtreme) series cards include:
- Radeon Pro WX 7100 — designed for the most demanding engineering and media and entertainment (M&E) software workflows and is AMD’s solution for VR (virtual reality) content creation under $1,000.USD
- Radeon Pro WX 5100 — the mid-level card is the ideal solution for product development powered by the impending game engine revolution in design visualization
- Radeon Pro WX 4100 — the low-end model offers great performance in a “half height” design, bringing mid-range GPU application performance demanded by CAD professionals to small form factor (SFF) workstations.
Speaking of SFF workstations, that is what Apple created with the new Mac Pro. Given the price / performance goals of this new series of Radeon Pro cards, one seriously wonders if Apple has been waiting for these three GPUs for the update to their Mac Pro. However, all three products are expected to be available in Q4 of 2016, making the timing quite interesting.
“We have taken a long, hard look at the workstation space and chose to focus on what we define as ‘the art of the impossible.’ Radeon Pro represents a powerful alternative to the old way of doing things, setting aside proprietary solutions for open source ones, and closed ecosystems in favor of greater choice and flexibility,” said Raja Koduri, senior vice president and chief architect, Radeon Technologies Group, AMD. “When you invest in Radeon Pro, you’re not just investing in a product, but in a holistic approach to design and content creation.
AMD Innovates with SSG Onboard Card
Along with the new WX (Workstation eXtreme) series Radeon Pro cards, AMD also announced during SIGGRAPH, the new Radeon Pro SSG. The new graphics cards integrates solid state memory directly onboard the card.
The Radeon Pro SSG was developed to address solutions that require access to large dataset applications and will initially be available as a developer kit.
The Radeon Pro SGG will ship with a full terabyte solid state memory, delivering an order of magnitude greater memory capacity than existing GPU implementations. Designed for next-wave computational scenarios—real world cases would include real-time post-production of 8K video, high real time high resolution rendering, VR content creation, oil and gas exploration, computational engineering, medical imaging, and life sciences computation.
During the world’s first demonstration of a Radeon Pro SSG solution, 8K raw video timeline scrubbing was accelerated from 17 frames per second to a stunning 90+ frames per second. As content creators rapidly adopt 8K resolution to future-proof their content, a 5X performance boost will improve quality of life, productivity and efficiency in the editing process.
“One of the most challenging constraints faced by GPU computing applications is the inability to access terabytes of data,” said Raja Koduri, senior vice president and chief architect, Radeon Technologies Group, AMD. “Radeon Pro SSG is poised to not only speed-up processing for many applications with very large datasets, but also to enable new application experiences by utilizing data persistence of non-volatile memory. This will be a disruptive advancement for many graphics and compute applications.”
“AMD has a long history of memory technology innovations, and Radeon Pro SSG is the latest example,” said Patrick Moorhead, Founder and Principal Analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy. “Larger local memory on the graphics card can speed-up processing for many applications with very large datasets, and should also allow for results with finer granularity and resolution. This will be a notable advancement for many graphics and compute applications.”
The new Radeon Pro SSG is available to application developers as kits and applications are now being accepted. These kits are available for $9,999.USD. Full product availability is planned or 2017.
AMD has not announced pricing on these new workstation class GPUs, only to say that the 7100 model, their top of the line, is under $1,000.USD. The goal with these new units is, as Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research has been quoted as saying, “to drive the democratization of content creation.”
This evolving “democratization” story is interesting because Pete Evans, AIA, senior associated editor of Architosh first utilized that term several years ago during analysis conversations for the Architosh AIA BEST of SHOW awards program. In that context, democratization related to gaining optionality across devices and operating systems and access to your data scenarios. Democratization related to freedoms of choice and workflow scenarios. It was driven by mobile plus cloud.
Now we are hearing the term democratization being used around concepts of price versus performance and around the concepts of time. Temporal issue is interesting. Real-time rendering is currently the emerging rage in AEC and will ramp up further. VR is also the huge rage in just about everything involving computer graphics, something that currently Apple doesn’t have an answer for with its computer Mac lineup, neither on the consumption side or the creation side.
There were rumblings—and just that—that the latest AMD Radeon Pro cards could be headed to Mac updates currently in the works, but even if that was true it is totally unclear what kit would make it and where.