Wednesday, August 13, 2008

AMD Bids on DirectX 11, OpenCL to Popularize GPGPU

General purpose processing on graphics processing units (GPGPU) has been discussed for years, however, without standards that are accepted by the whole industry popularity of the technology is not high to say at least. But that may change once Microsoft Corp. unveils its DirectX 11 application programming interface and Khronos Group finalizes the OpenCL language.

“Industry standards are essential to unlocking the compute potential of GPUs and driving broad adoption of this capability in mainstream applications. GPGPU is now moving past the era of closed and fully proprietary development chains. With the advent of DirectX 11 and OpenCL, C/C++ programmers worldwide will have standardized and easier ways of leveraging the GPU’s computational capabilities,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager, graphics product group at AMD.

At present AMD is promoting GPGPU with its proprietary Close-to-Metal, Brook+ and Stream SDK technologies, whereas Nvidia is pushing its own CUDA technology as a part of GPGPU popularization.

According to Microsoft, Direct3D 11 extends and enhances Direct3D 10 with new hardware and API calls. For example, Direct3D 11 introduces the Compute Shader as a way to access this computational capability without so many constraints. It opens the door to operations on more general data-structures than just arrays, and to new classes of algorithms as well. Key features of compute shader include: communication of data between threads, and a rich set of primitives for random access and streaming I/O operations. These features enable faster and simpler implementations of techniques already in use, such as imaging and post-processing effects, and also open up new techniques that become feasible on Direct3D 11–class hardware.

“Just as it ushered in the era of advanced 3D gaming for the masses, DirectX is poised to be at the vanguard of the GPGPU revolution. DirectX 11 gives developers the power to more easily harness the astonishing capabilities of AMD GPUs for general purpose computation, and gives consumers an effortless way to experience all that AMD Stream has to offer, on the hundreds of millions of Microsoft Windows powered systems worldwide,” said Anantha Kancherla, manager of Windows desktop and graphics technologies, Microsoft.

AMD is also supporting efforts to develop OpenCL as an open standard and plans to evolve the Stream SDK to be OpenCL compliant. Through equal support for both DirectX 11 and OpenCL, and by continuing to give developers the option of creating and using their own programming languages and high level tools, AMD is executing on a strategy designed to give programmers maximum choice and flexibility, the company said.

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