Recent progress in the OpenCL ecosystem

Recent progress in the OpenCL ecosystem

Written Friday 9 Dec

Recently AMD announced an increased focus on its Accelerated Parallel Processing SDK, promising more frequent updates tied to display driver releases on all platforms; AMD Product Manager for Compute Solutions Mark Ireton wrote on their developer blog, "[...] we will also be upgrading our OpenCL solution on a more frequent basis through the regular monthly Catalyst driver updates."

NVIDIA, for their part, are continually improving their OpenCL implementation with each driver update, approaching the performance of its native CUDA language. Much as I love the lean and mean CUDA 4 API, only OpenCL can expose massively parallel compute capabilities in a vendor-neutral way (and it's nice to be able to JIT from source), so in the long term I expect OpenCL to become the de facto standard for parallel computation.

AMD and Intel already have an OpenCL SDK which supports their CPUs, and this is important since they already include (or soon will) considerable GPU-like parallel compute resources. The tight integration of these heterogeneous compute resources is quite unlike the present norm, in which discrete cards with dedicated memory are connected to the CPU by a long PCI Express trip, and this will be an interesting scenario to optimise for in the future. Intel's Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture is another one to watch in the future: with a widened x86 architecture (easy to program) and their manufacturing process leadership, we could see a compelling compute platform.

When we started developing for GPUs, we'd have to manually write out debug info to be returned to the host; unsuccessful runs were often met with a hard reset or blue screen. This is in stark contrast to the fantastic development tools we have now, including the ability to print out debug info from kernels, and do live debugging in Visual Studio - and it almost never hangs the machine. Two thumbs up!

It's clear that a great OpenCL implementation is important for these companies, and we are very pleased with the progress that is being made.