AMD's new SSG Technology blends an SSD with a GPU?!

AMD's says its Solid State Graphics Technology will enable terabytes of storage on a graphics card.

You can never have enough memory on a professional graphics card, AMD officials said before announcing the company's next big thing at the SIGGRAPH conference on Monday night. Using what AMD dubbed SSG Technology, or Solid State Graphics Technology, the company will graft high-speed NAND memory to its upcoming line of professional GPUs.

In doing so, company officials said, it will be possible to connect a magnitude more memory to a GPU than is currently available. The GPU with the most memory presently is AMD’s Radeon FirePro W9100 with 32GB of RAM.

With SSG Technology, NAND is directly connected to the GPU core, residing within the graphics card itself.

Why this matters: “This will allow us to connect terabytes of memory to the GPU,” said David Wattters, AMD’s head of Industry Alliances. The ramifications aren’t entirely known, but Watters said SSG is already making a difference in ultra-high-resolution 8K video. And no, 8K video isn’t just double that of 4K, either. An Ultra HD 4K video is about 8.3 megapixels. An 8K video is 7680x4320, or about 33 megapixels. According to Watters, current GPUs can play 8K video at around 17fps; one with SSG can play the same video at 96fps.

How it works

AMD said that given the relatively small amount of memory in a graphics card today, the GPU must slice and dice workloads and then manage the merging of those disparate parts. When the GPU wants more work, it has to signal the CPU, which then fetches data from the larger pool of local system RAM or primary storage. This incurs latency.

With SSG, the CPU is bypassed entirely, which greatly reduces latency, AMD said. The company didn’t disclose too many details, but SSG appears to be based on a standard M.2 interface using PCIe.

SSG would not replace graphics RAM itself, such as GDDR5+ or HBM or HBM2, as it would be too slow. The company’s new Polaris-based Radeon RX 480, for example, has about 256GBps of memory bandwidth on tap. The best you can get out of a single M.2 interface today is 1.5GBps to 2GBps

AMD officials said the large pool of SSG memory will aid real-time visualization tasks and also change how professionals work because that memory is also pervasive. A typical high-end CAD worker might start the morning by booting up their machine and loading a model, which could take an hour. SSG would eliminate that wait.

The SSG memory would be treated as part of a huge pool of RAM. If the GPU can’t find its data in the local GDDR5+ or HBM RAM, it would then search the SSG. Only after that would it have to ask the CPU for what it wants.

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Gordon Mah Ung

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