AMD is kicking off its weekend with news of a partnership between itself and CAD software developer PTC (Parametric Technology Corporation). PTC owns and develops the Creo software family. One of the programs at the heart of the company, Creo Element/Pro, was originally known as Pro/ENGINEER. It's not at all unusual for software developers in the CAD/CAM space to ally with hardware manufacturers, but it's typically Nvidia, not AMD, making such announcements.
AMD claims that the upcoming Creo 2.0 product suite will be able to take advantage of the GPU in unprecedented ways that simultaneously improve performance and visual quality without compromising either. The company calls one such option Order Independent Transparency, or OIT; it's a rendering technology that allows for the partial display of wireframes and models inside a solid surface without creating artifacts or imprecise visualizations.
AMD is claiming that the FirePro series can deliver performance the Quadro family can't match, though it's worth noting that AMD only includes data for up to the Quadro 4000, while the FirePro family reaches all the way up to the 7900. One of the purported benefits AMD is delivering in partnership with PTC is called VBO, short for Vertex Buffer Object. AMD claims significantly improved performance using VBO when compared to the Pro/ENGINEER version of the program.
What's interesting about this announcement is that it could signal a new push from AMD to break into the workstation market. The company has significantly boosted its share of that segment through sharp price cuts in the past five years, but roughly 4/5 new professional cards sold are still built on Nvidia technology. Price cuts alone are unlikely to make further deep inroads -- in professional systems, the cost of the graphics card is only a fraction of the total cost of product licenses and service agreements. What's far more important is the degree of software optimization and collaboration that goes on between the hardware vendor (AMD, in this case) and the software developers.
The new Creo 2.0 options imply that AMD is paying more attention to its work in this segment and may be the beginning of a new focus on GPU performance outside of consumer applications and general professional compatibility. These are the sorts of features AMD needs to cultivate to see more success in the workstation line; we'll see if the company continues to announce these sorts of efforts in coming months.