A few months ago during the Radeon HD 7970 launch we discussed how AMD would be revising their Independent Software Vendor (ISV) relations. While their efforts with ISVs in the past few years had been decent, AMD had not put a lot of money into it, and what money they did have was controlled by a relatively large bureaucracy. Consequently their efforts paled in comparison to NVIDIA’s, who put in far more money and effort into the process.

As a result one of AMD’s reforms for 2012 was going to be that they were going to put more money into ISV relations in order to catch up to NVIDIA. And while our discussion with the 7970 last year focused on the gaming side of things, AMD is also throwing more money behind ISV relations for their professional graphics business. After hitting a significant low against NVIDIA’s Quadro lineup, AMD’s market share for professional graphics has rebounded based on the strength of their 40nm DX11 GPUs, and AMD is looking to keep that momentum going with these improved ISV relations.

The first such major partnership of the year is with Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC), a firm specializing in product lifecycle management software and CAD/CAM software. Earlier this month PTC launched their Creo 2.0 suite of applications, of which AMD has had a significant hand in helping PTC optimize. Specifically, AMD’s ISV group has been working on Creo Parametric 2.0, PTC’s CAD/CAM application.

With Creo Parametric 2.0, AMD and PTC have added support for a couple new features intended to significantly boost performance. The first is Order Independent Transparency, which you may recall from the launch of the Radeon HD 5870 back in 2009. Order independent transparency allows for quickly assembling a frame containing multiple transparent elements without sorting them first. In this case it allows Creo Parametric 2.0 to do accurate per-pixel transparency ordering at a much faster rate than in standard blending.

The other feature AMD helped PTC add was support for Vertex Buffer Objects, more commonly known as VBOs. As the name implies, VBOs are buffers of vertex data, the significance being that VBOs allow for vertex data to be stored as objects in VRAM rather than streamed to the video card during the rendering process. In situations with a great deal of polygons – and hence vertex data – VBOs can significantly speed up rendering, which is what PTC is doing in Creo Parametric 2.0 by using VBOs to speed up viewport performance. Like order independent transparency this isn’t a new idea – in fact it’s been around since OpenGL 2.1 – but this is a good example of how slowly CAD/CAM software adopts new technology compared to consumer applications.

As far as performance goes, AMD and PTC are looking at upwards of 9x the performance of PTC’s older software when it comes to transparency-bottlenecked situations, and a 5x improvement in viewport performance in situations similarly bound by vertex performance. Both of these changes are rather small elements of the complete rendering pipeline for Creo Parametric, however as far as AMD is concerned this is a great example for how offloading work to the GPU and making small optimizations can have a huge impact. And as a case study it's one they will no doubt be using to drive future ISV partnerships.

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  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    We're supposed to know what an ISV is?
  • bigdisk - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    Yes you are. It's an Indenpendant Software Vendor.
  • TrackSmart - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    I had to look it up (which took time since the correct answer was definitely not anywhere near the first hit). Watch out for those undefined industry-jargon acronyms...
  • jeremyshaw - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    In the 3D/CAD industry... yes. Yes, you are.
  • videogames101 - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    I'm extremely happy to see GPU manufacturer advising and working with CAD suite developers to make a more robust rendering environment, and I think if this continues from both Nvidia and AMD end users are going to see significant improvements in performance and image/rendering quality. Nice!
  • AG@FirePro - Saturday, April 14, 2012 - link

    Yes, our ISV Alliances team worked very closely with PTC on these features and we essentially wrote these performance optimization into the application with a bit of assistance from our friends at PTC

    OIT for PTC Creo Parametric 2.0 is (for now) only enabled when running AMD FirePro cards. (sorry, Nvidia users)

    VBO was a "gift" to the Creo community -and is enabled in Creo when using all certified GPUs (even NVidia Quadro)

    We partner very closely with most of the CAD and M&E ISVs to help them optimize their own applications, This is nothing new. We also work hard on our end to ensure that our drivers are further optimized to extract maximum stability and performance in OpenGL, OpenCL and application-specific features and methods.

    Adam G.
    Amd FirePro team
  • MGSsancho - Saturday, April 14, 2012 - link

    Unused hardware is wasted hardware. Especially when you have the budget for capable systems and spending a few thousand pales in comparison to the salaries of engineers etc. But yes this is amazing that after these software updates, engineers and replace their GPUs and see great gains in performance and accuracy. :)
  • greylica - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link

    As long as they don't block functionality to create more specific ISV market niches based on stupid software patents that should be illegal, OK for me...
  • Belard - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Back about 10 years ago, they had a free edition of one of their software products. Just register it and not use it for actual business production.

    Their 3D CAD/CAM software is among the best... AUTOCAD is pretty much the standard "CRAP" software in the CAD/CAM industry.

    I haven't used PTC in years, but it was very cool stuff. You can design mechanically how something works. Such as bolts, gears, components and make sure they fit, etc.

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