The HSA Foundation

>> Saturday, June 16, 2012

One of the high points of the AMD Fusion Developer Summit was Phil Rogers' keynote address concerning the HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) Foundation. AMD, ARM, Texas Instruments, MediaTek, and Imagination Technologies have joined forces to "make it easy to program for parallel computing." A full write-up can be found here.

At first I was surprised that Intel wasn't included. But from what I've gleaned since the announcement, the whole point of the foundation is to dislodge Intel from its dominant position in the computing world. It will be a tough battle, especially considering how well Intel's Ivy Bridge chip is performing.

While I enjoyed Phil Rogers' address, he said something I strongly disagree with. In discussing OpenCL, he said the main problem is OpenCL's difficulty. OpenCL is unquestionably hard, but in my opinion, the main problem is that the programming world still doesn't know what OpenCL is. None of the engineers I work with know about OpenCL, and of the attendees I spoke to at the conference, none had even attempted to code an OpenCL kernel. Programmers aren't giving up on OpenCL because of its difficulty -- they're not even getting their feet wet.

If I was Phil Rogers, I would take (at least) two steps to raise awareness. First, I'd send engineers to major universities to demonstrate the technology. Second, I'd find open-source projects that could be accelerated using OpenCL (such as GNU math, NumPy, and OpenFOAM) and provide free releases based on OpenCL. This will not only impress users with OpenCL's power, but also inspire them to harness the power for themselves.

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