Earlier this week, AMD announced a new series of Radeon-branded cards–called Radeon Sky–aimed at the cloud gaming market. At the time, details on the cards was scarce apart from the fact that the cards would use latency-reduction "secret sauce" tech called RapidFire, and the highest-end model would be the Radeon Sky 900. Thankfully, gamers will not have to wait until AFDS after all, as AMD has posted additional information and specifications to its website. At this point, pricing and the underlying details of RapidFire are the only aspects still unknown.
According to the AMD site, the company will release three Radeon Sky cards later this year, called Sky 500, Sky 700, and Sky 900. All three cards are passively cooled with aluminum fin heatsinks and are based on AMD's Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. At the high end is the Sky 900, which is a dual Tahiti graphics card clocked at 825 MHz. The Sky 900 features 1,792 stream processors per GPU for a total of 3,584. The card further features 3GB of GDDR5 RAM per GPU on a 384-bit interface for a total GPU bandwidth of 480GB/s. AMD claims this dual slot card draws up to 300W while under load. In many respects the Sky 900 is the Radeon-equivalent to the company's professional FirePro S10,000 graphics card. It has similar hardware specifications (including the 5.91TFLOPS of single precision performance potential), but a higher TDP. It is also $3,599, though whether AMD will price the gaming-oriented Sky 900 similarly is unknown.
The Sky 700 steps down to a single-GPU graphics card. This card features a single Tahiti GPU clocked at 900 MHz with 1792 stream processors and 6GB of GDDR5. The graphics card memory uses a 384-bit memory interface for a total memory bandwidth of 264GB/s. Although also a dual slot card like the Sky 900, the cooler is smaller and it draws only 225W under load.
Finally, the Sky 500 represents the low end of the company's cloud gaming hardware lineup. It is the Radeon Sky equivalent to the company's consumer-grade Radeon HD 7870. The Sky 500 features a single Pitcairn GPU clocked at 950 MHz with 1280 stream processors, 4GB of GDDR5 on a 256-bit memory bus, and a rated 150W power draw under load. It further features 154GB/s of memory bandwidth and is a single slot graphics card.
|Sky 900||Sky 700||Sky 500|
|GPU(s)||Dual Tahiti||Single Tahiti||Single Pitcairn|
|GPU Clockspeed||825 MHz||900 MHz||950 MHz|
|Stream Processors||3584 (1792 per GPU)||1792||1280|
|Memory||6GB GDDR5 (3GB per GPU)||6GB GDDR5||4GB GDDR5|
Additionally, the Radeon Sky cards all employ a technology called RapidFire that allegedly reduces latency immensely. As Ryan mentioned on the latest PC Perspective Podcast, the Radeon Sky cards are able to stream up to six games. RapidFire is still a mystery, but the company has indicated that one aspect of RapidFire is the use of AMD's Video Encoding Engine (VCE) to encode the video stream on the GPU itself to reduce game latency. The Sky cards will output at 720p resolutions, and the Sky 700 can support either three games at 60 FPS or six games at 30 FPS.
In addition to working with cloud gaming companies Ubitus, G-Cluster, CiiNow, and Otoy, AMD has announced a partnership with VMWare and Citrix. AMD is reportedly working to allow VMWare ESX/ESXi and Citrix XenServer virtual machines to access the GPU hardware directly, which opens up the possibility of using Sky cards to run workstation applications or remote desktops with 3D support much like NVIDIA's VCA and GRID technology (which the company showed off at GTC last week). Personally, I think the Sky cards may be late to the party but is a step in the right direction. Even if cloud gaming doesn't take off, the cards could still be used to great success by enterprise customers if they are able to allow direct access to the full graphics card hardware from within virtual machines!
More information on the Radeon Sky cards can be found on the AMD website.