Avoiding the VHS vs. Betamax War
Arguably one of the most important elements of OpenCL is that it is an open standard, not controlled by any one vendor and not limited to one kind of graphics cards or CPU. Microsoft has DirectCompute. Nvidia has the proprietary GPU-only CUDA. But OpenCL is vendor neutral with incredible momentum and the only solution that is designed for the next generation of heterogeneous computing coming from Intel and AMD.
Heterogeneous Computing Makes OpenCL Even More Relevant
Heterogeneous computing is the new term you will hear to refer to integrated CPUs and GPUs on a single die (e.g., AMD's Fusion APUs or Intel's Sandy Bridge). This is the future of mobile, handheld and desktop computers. The APU design is both more power efficient and solves the problem of data transfer latencies between the CPU and GPU.
This shift in processor design makes OpenCL even more relevant and ubiquitous. Because GPU and CPU are on the same die, there is no bandwidth or bus latencies when transferring data between CPU and GPU. OpenCL code runs full throttle. For additional performance, add in a discrete workstation graphics board. Any OpenCL-savvy application will automatically and seamlessly take advantage of the additional compute power.
What's a CAD User to Do Now?
Chances are you already have a workstation graphics card in your desktop or mobile workstation. What you want are applications that take advantage of OpenCL. The best way to accelerate this is to contact your preferred CAD/CAE software vendor (e.g. ANSYS, Autodesk, CEI, Dassault, ESI, Intelligent Light, MCS, Siemens to name a few) and ask them when they will be adding OpenCL for new features or to accelerate existing features in their application. Most of the significant players are already working on it, so your voice just helps them get their products to market faster.
I'm going to be following the upcoming AMD Fusion Developer Summit very closely. Much of this conference is focused on OpenCL, so I am expecting to see some interesting announcements and demonstration that show off OpenCL capabilities. I'll post updates as I hear them.
Author: Tony DeYoung