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AMD Hones Learning Instincts

January 24, 2017

Author: David Kanter

Leaping into the hot machine-learning market, AMD unveiled the Radeon Instinct GPU line, topped by the MI25 training accelerator and the MI6 and MI8 inference accelerators. AMD has not disclosed their production availability, but the MI6 and MI8 are based on the existing Polaris and Fiji microarchitectures, respectively, and should arrive in 2Q17. The MI25 is based on the forthcoming Vega microarchitecture and so could take a bit longer; we expect it to arrive in 3Q17.

All Radeon Instinct accelerators eschew fans and use passive cooling appropriate for the data center. The product-naming system is remarkably sensible and appears to reflect each model’s computational throughput for half-precision floating-point (FP) operations. The designs feature a variant of Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) with a 64-bit PCIe address space and multi-GPU support using that space.

The MI6 is based on the 14nm Polaris 10 architecture, which appears in the Radeon RX 480. It features 36 shader cores and a 256-bit GDDR5 interface to 16GB of memory. When operating at 1.1GHz, it draws 150W and delivers 5.7Tflop/s of single- or half-precision compute throughput. The more powerful MI8 is based on the Nano version of the older 28nm Fiji architecture, packing 64 cores and 4GB of HBM memory. Despite the older process, the more efficient memory interface enables 8.2Tflop/s of single- or half-precision performance—44% higher than the MI6 at the cost of just 17% more power. But both accelerators deliver only about half the power efficiency of the MI25.

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