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AMD says IOMMU v2.5 is key for Linux HSA support

But the real work is in compilers and libraries
Thu May 02 2013, 17:13
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CHIP DESIGNER AMD said it is working to get IOMMU v2.5 support in the Linux kernel ahead of the first heterogeneous system architecture (HSA) chip that will come out later this year.

AMD's upcoming Kaveri chip will be the first to support HSA, which enables the CPU and on-die GPU to access system memory. The firm told The INQUIRER that it is working with the Linux community to get IOMMU v2.5 supported in the kernel in time for the launch of its Kaveri chip.

Margaret Lewis, director of software at AMD said there does need to be operating system level support for HSA but that getting Linux to support the IOMMU v2.5 specification will enable it to take advantage of most of the features of a HSA compliant chip such as Kaveri.

Lewis said, "There's a certain amount of capability you want the operating system to have. In terms of Linux what we need to do is make sure the operating system supports IOMMU v2.5 and that is the specification that sets the stage for most of the shared memory between the devices.

"AMD is one of the top 25 contributors to Linux, so we work with the Linux community to get these necessary patches into the operating systems so that they can go to and be pulled down by the distributions and have that level of functionality."

However Lewis said AMD's main body of work wasn't in getting operating system support for HSA but in developer tools. She said, "If we enable the OS to support HSA, and there are some basic enablement pieces such as IOMMU v2.5, but really you would say some of the heavy lifting we are doing is residing in the tools. The tools are HSA supportive and that's where a lot of work is taking place, more on compilers and libraries that can then be used by application developers. It's almost the bigger play to get the tools updated than it is to get the different aspects of the OS updated. The OS is support has been relatively straightforward."

Lewis also confirmed that AMD is working with the GNU C compiler (GCC) project to ensure that it will support HSA, meaning there will be a free compiler that supports the firm's latest technology. She added that AMD is also working with "for pay" compilers, however given the popularity of GCC one would have to say that supporting that is somewhere near the top of AMD's priority list if it wants HSA to be successful.

According to Lewis' comments, the ability of AMD to work with the Linux kernel community to drive HSA support means that the firm shouldn't be left stranded once the hardware arrives later this year like it was in 2003 with AMD64.

For AMD, the other difference between 2003 and now is that Linux is indispensable in the all-important mobile and server markets. µ


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