Llano and the Implications for Linux

Michael Haney thezorch at gmail.com
Wed Feb 10 06:56:37 GMT 2010

AMD will begin shipping samples of their Llano APU to OEMs this year
and will officially ship in 2011.  Intel's own CPU/GPU combo processor
will beat the Llano to market by several months.  But, I understand
Intel's codename Sandy Bridge processor is not as tightly integrated
as the Llano, the CPU and GPU aren't on the same die, and it is only
Direct X 10 compliant.

The Llano processor, what AMD dubs an "Accelerated Processing Unit",
is a fusion of a 3GHz quad-core Phenom II class CPU with an ATI Radeon
HD 5000 (Evergreen) class GPU on one die.  On-board will be a DDR3
memory controller and 512KB L1 and 1MB L2 cache per core.  The
graphics performance of this chip is estimated to be around that of
the Radeon HD 5000, which is pretty good, and it will be fully Direct
X 11 compliant.  I also understand ATI's OpenGL performance is no
slacker either.

But what about Linux?  Increasingly we've seen applications that take
advantage of the GPU to accelerate tasks like encoding HD video,
calculations for scientific applications & simulations, digital photo
processing and editing, and more on Windows and Mac.  Apple built an
API specifically for this into Snow Leopard.  Will we see something
like this implemented in the Linux kernel as well?  Could components
of the operating system see some performance benefits from using the
GPU for enumeration?  To accelerate the enumeration of some functions
the Linux kernel has used MMX for several years now.

Having a mid to high end GPU available with virtually no bottleneck
between it and the CPU will be a huge benefit I think to Linux and
Windows both.  GLX acceleration on the desktop is becoming commonplace
nowadays in just about every modern day desktop Linux distributions
including our very own Ubuntu.  We could see better desktop graphics
performance gains from the Llano APU if it indeed delivers what AMD
has promised.  This could mean better Desktop Effects performance,
better performance in Flash (hey, a guy can hope can't he?) and there
is that new graphics mode for the kernel I've been hearing about.
Where the kernel can do accelerated graphics without X.org.  I forget
what they call that new feature, anyone know what it's called?

Anyway, it would be interesting to see what can be done with these new
processors with Linux in the near future.

What do you think?  Let here you're perspective.

Michael "TheZorch" Haney
"The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking
of morality by religion." ~ Arthur C. Clarke
"The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and
politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there is no place
for it in the endeavor of science. " ~ Carl Sagan

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