State of OpenCL

>> Sunday, August 24, 2014

EDIT: AMD released its OpenCL 2.0 drivers for existing graphics cards on 9/30/2014, thereby becoming the first company to provide real-world support for OpenCL.

The SIGGRAPH conference was held in Vancouver on August 13. OpenCL was one of the topics discussed and the slides from the Khronos Group can be downloaded here.

Looking through the OpenCL BOF slides, four points caught my eye:

  • AMD was the first company to support OpenCL 1.2, but Intel will be the first to support OpenCL 2.0. Their new Broadwell GPU architecture complies with the OpenCL 2.0 spec and AnandTech has a great article on it here.
  • The presentation states that "The Future is Mobile" and I agree. But iOS and Android are nowhere near supporting the execution of OpenCL kernels. This is a shame, as many mobile GPU vendors are working hard to provide OpenCL SDKs and drivers.
  • Version 2.0 of SPIR (Standard Portable Intermediate Representation) has been released. This format makes it possible to exchange (i.e. sell) device-agnostic OpenCL programs without giving away the source code. I need to learn more about it.
  • The OpenCL 1.2 spec was released nearly four years ago, but Nvidia still doesn't support it. And as I've learned from experience, they don't make it easy to get their OpenCL 1.1 library.
This last point gives an idea of how much (or more precisely, how little) Nvidia cares for OpenCL. Which makes it all the stranger that Neil Trevett, a Senior Vice President at Nvidia, is leading the OpenCL Working Group. I'm sure he's a fine person and a devoted technologist, but if his company has given up on OpenCL, why is he in charge? It's like putting Bill Gates at the head of the Free Software Foundation.


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