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Windows 7: Windows 7: Software GPU

02 Dec 2008   #1
Bare Foot Kid
Microsoft MVP

W 7 64-bit Ultimate
Windows 7: Software GPU

Windows 7 will sport a DX10 "software GPU".................Date: 02 Dec. 08

An MSDN article was released late last week that details an addition to Windows 7's graphical capabilities. Specifically, Microsoft's next OS will provide a mechanism for running DirectX 10 applications on any kind of hardware, from a DirectX 9 or lower GPU to no GPU at all (i.e., "software rendering").

The new feature is called WARP10, for "Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform," and it's essentially a DX10-compliant, software-only rasterizer that was written by Microsoft; it runs directly on the CPU. In a situation where a DX10 app needs to run but can't find DX10-compliant hardware, it will run on WARP10, albeit very, very slowly. Ultimately, you can think of WARP10 as a "software DX10 GPU" that will exist as a fallback in Windows.

In a nutshell, WARP10 works by chaining two compilers together to convert code written in DX10's HLSL into assembly code for the target platform (x86, x86-64, and/or various flavors of SSE). My strong suspicion is that this list of targets will eventually be expanded to include NVIDIA'S CUDA, AMD's CTM, and Intel's Larrabee-flavored x86.

Given Microsoft's description of the technology, it's clear that they invested quite a bit of effort in coaxing as much performance as possible out of it. The MSDN article describing WARP10 explains that "WARP10 has been optimized to run best on machines that support SSE2. It also contains optimizations for specific architecture and performance differences between AMD and Intel processors as well as extensive support for the SSE 4.1 extensions."
To showcase WARP10's capabilities, Microsoft ran the gold standard of current DX10 gaming benchmarks, Crysis, on a variety of CPU-only systems.

Eventually, though, as the core counts of mainstream processors increase and as WARP10's target list opens to include the next generation of GPUs, I could see the company pushing the tech to developers of more advanced games as a "write once, get acceptable performance everywhere" solution.

Read more at the source.

Later Ted

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 Windows 7: Software GPU

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