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AMD admits it has to work on improving Linux OpenCL support

Windows 8 is not the only party in town
Mon May 28 2012, 15:44

CHIP DESIGNER AMD has admitted it has work to do in improving OpenCL support in Linux.

AMD's considerable effort in releasing its Llano and Trinity accelerated processor units (APUs) has been offset by stumbling support from applications for its GPGPU architecture. Now AMD has admitted that it needs to beef up support for Linux.

Although AMD works with Microsoft to provide OpenCL support in Windows 8, Neal Robinson, senior director of Consumer Developer Support at AMD told The INQUIRER that the firm has "more work to do in the Linux environment".

Robinson said, "The Linux environment is much more complex because you've got so many different distributions, so trying to get a single development environment is a bit more challenging than on [Microsoft] Windows where you have a little bit more uniformity. We are currently talking to some of our Linux partners to make sure that OpenCL performance especially with our drivers is fully enabled on those platforms. Then they will be able to take advantage of all of this open source work, whether it is Windows or Linux."

Robinson explained some of the open-source work AMD has been involved in with developers on projects such as the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), x264, Handbrake and Videolan, with Robinson saying it will work with FFMpeg in the near future to develop OpenCL support. However when firms such a Dell ship workstations with Linux but only offer GPGPU support for users running Microsoft Windows operating systems, it clearly sends a discouraging message about the work AMD and Nvidia have been doing to drive Linux support for GPGPUs.

Robinson said AMD went for the maximum number of eyeballs approach with its operating system support, saying, "Our focus is initially on the consumer market, clearly we want to see the value of OpenCL or simply GPU acceleration hitting as large of an audience as possible. We have a bit of work to do in the Linux space where workstations have been vertically orientated - those workstations have been applied to very specific type of research, gas and oil, financial markets."

However Robinson believes that more tools will mean better support of OpenCL on both Windows and Linux. Robinson said, "Now with the proliferation of OpenCL and certainly with the introduction of C++ AMP by Microsoft, you are seeing the actual tipping point where you've got a development environment, especially with C++ or OpenCL, whatever they [developers] want to choose and that makes much more sense. But we've got a bit more work to do with the Linux environment to open this up to workstations, but based on the success we've seen in the consumer it gives us the momentum in those areas."

As for Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system, Robinson said, "You'll see heterogeneous compute on Windows 8 in the Metro interface or in the traditional desktop interface, whichever the user wants to use. There's a lot of opportunity [for support] there for sure, between DirectX 11 and C++ AMP."

AMD's Linux support over the years could be described as patchy at best, however the firm needs to improve OpenCL support on Linux for a number of reasons. Not only does AMD need to court developers who are much more likely to use Linux to develop applications, but also for its high performance computing customers, large numbers of whom run Linux-based operating systems on their supercomputer clusters.

For AMD flaky Linux support isn't just a matter of gamers complaining, but now with its APUs, standard applications are simply not making use of the compute power that AMD needs to compete with Intel. µ


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