Friday, 26 February 2010

Blue Mars and the Fusion Render Cloud

Fusion Render Cloud
Rewind back to
just over a year ago AMD President and Chief Executive Officer Dirk Meyer and OTOY Chief Executive Officer Jules Urbach unveiled a plan to revolutionize the deployment, development and delivery of HD content through the “AMD Fusion Render Cloud”, a massively-parallel supercomputer. The announcement took place during AMD’s Industry Insider Series keynote at the Las Vegas Hilton Theater, where AMD was joined on stage by industry luminaries such as Lucasfilm, Dell, HP and Electronic Arts.

AMD has a long track record in the supercomputing world. Seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest machines, including the fastest two computers on the planet, are powered by AMD hardware
said Meyer.

Today, AMD is pleased to announce a new kind of supercomputer unlike any other ever built. It is being designed to break the one petaFLOPS barrier, and to process a million compute threads across more than 1,000 graphics processors. We anticipate it to be the fastest graphics supercomputer ever. And it will be powered by OTOY’s software for a singular purpose: to make HD cloud computing a reality. We plan to have this system ready by the second half of 2009.

The system is being designed to enable content providers to deliver video games, PC applications and other graphically-intensive applications through the Internet “cloud” to virtually any type of mobile device with a web browser without making the device rapidly deplete battery life or struggle to process the content. The AMD Fusion Render Cloud will transform movie and gaming experiences through server-side rendering – which stores visually rich content in a compute cloud, compresses it, and streams it in real-time over a wireless or broadband connection to a variety of devices such as smart phones, set-top boxes and ultra-thin notebooks. By delivering remotely rendered content to devices that are unable to store and process HD content due to such constraints as device size, battery capacity, and processing power, HD cloud computing represents the capability to bring HD entertainment to mobile users virtually anywhere.

The AMD Fusion Render Cloud will also enable remote real-time rendering of film and visual effects graphics on an unprecedented scale. Gaming companies can use the AMD Fusion Render Cloud for developing and deploying next-generation game content, to serve up virtual world games with unlimited photo-realistic detail, and take advantage of new delivery channels as open and diverse as the web itself.

Hosted on AMD’s powerful new AMD Fusion Render platform, OTOY’s revolutionary software has given birth to the world’s first practical, scalable graphics supercomputer capable of true server-side HD cloud rendering. The AMD Fusion Render Cloud will allow directors like Robert Rodriguez of Troublemaker Studios to break through existing CPU-only and graphics processor-only render bottlenecks which have imposed limitations on the creation of true eye-definition assets,

said Charlie Boswell, Director of Digital Media and Entertainment, AMD.
Imagine playing the most visually intensive first person shooter game at the highest image quality settings on your cell phone without ever having to download and install the software, or use up valuable storage space or battery life with compute-intensive tasks. Those are just some of the experiences that AMD and OTOY plan to make possible with HD cloud computing of visually rich entertainment content.
By fusing industry-leading CPU technology with computationally dense, massively parallel graphics processors, the AMD Fusion Render Cloud can rival the world’s most powerful industrial computing devices, but require just a fraction of the floor space, power envelope and cost associated with many of today’s leading supercomputers,” said Jules Urbach, Chief Executive Officer, OTOY. “Combined with the power of OTOY’s revolutionary and flexible software platform, the AMD Fusion Render Cloud can transform the entertainment industry and remove the technical barriers between consumers and first-rate content experiences.

The AMD Fusion Render Cloud will be powered by AMD-optimized hardware including the AMD Phenom™ II processors, AMD 790 chipsets and ATI Radeon™ HD 4870 graphics processors, for unprecedented compute density and power efficiency. The AMD Fusion Render Cloud is an excellent example of AMD’s Fusion strategy, combining its partners’ dreams with AMD innovation, to bring powerful technologies to mainstream markets through the combined power of graphics processors and CPUs in a single platform.

So, is the Fusion Render Cloud ready for production? I took a look at the OTOY website, but there is currently only one word there at the moment ... Soon.

Just one tantalising word on the OTOY Website

Fast Forward to
this past week, when Jim Sink of Avatar Reality, the creators of the Blue Mars Virtual World platform, addressed the Virtual Edge 2010 conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
Jim said
The problem people have with deploying virtual world applications, particularly in business and education environments, is that they have a choice - between capability and compatibility. Games such as Crysis or World of Warcraft, look good, but require high-end hardware, and up-to-date drivers. Or they could make something really simple that is Flash-based for example. In Blue Mars we wanted to create something that was as flexible as possible, so if you wanted it in an application or you wanted to run it in a browser, that is not the compromise that you needed to make… So we wanted to create something to lower the barrier to entry and allow people to create things that are very beautiful, graphically, beyond anything you would see on an XBox 360 or  Playstation 3, and put it on ANY device and make it really easy to use.
Blue Mars currently has two ways in which you can bring your current web-based content directly into a Virtual World. We have native renderers for flash and web content and so if it runs in a web browser it runs in Blue Mars.
Fortunately AMD and a software company called OTOY have partnered together to create something called the Fusion Cloud Server. And what this allows us to do is to take a high-end 3d application like Blue Mars, render it in the cloud, and deliver it to any device that is capable of web-based video, the quality scales with the amount of bandwidth that you have. So, just like Youtube when you click on 'Play' and it plays, that is how it works for a HD 3D environment.

Jim also mentioned that they may have a production version of the web renderer on their April 1st release.

All this is amazing news indeed. But just how good is this new Fusion Render Cloud? Maybe this Jules World customer video will give us a clue:

Many naysayers have complained that Blue Mars will only run on high-end equipment, and if they struggle to run Second Life on their rig how can they be expected to run Blue Mars?

Others have said they are Mac or Linux users, and to wake them up when Blue Mars is available on their platforms.

Well guys, get ready for a wake-up call.