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OpenCL: Parallel programmers’ new best friend

CNet (08/28/09) Glaskowsky, Peter

Apple’s new Snow Leopard operating system features the Open Computing Language (OpenCL), new parallel programming technology that Apple hopes will become a standard for use with all operating systems. Apple has released OpenCL to the Khronos Group, an independent standards organization that also manages the OpenGL standard for three-dimensional rendering. OpenCL works with graphics processing units (GPUs), but was designed from the start to achieve the best performance from multicore processors. OpenCL supports both CPU- and GPU-optimized programming, and can choose the right code depending on what hardware is available. OpenCL also can capitalize on both task-level parallelism, in which multiple tasks are running simultaneously, and data-level parallelism, in which a single instruction within a task is applied to multiple data items at once. However, OpenCL’s biggest advantage is that no other parallel-programming language will be as widely supported. Both AMD and NVIDIA will have OpenCL drivers for their GPUs, AMD and Intel will support OpenCL on their CPUs, and AMD has already shipped its first OpenCL implementation for its Athlon and Opteron processors. It is even possible that future releases of OpenCL may be able to work with less common hardware, such as field-programmable gate arrays.

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