AMD initiative to encourage spread of GPU computing

November 17, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
AMD has launched its ‘Boltzmann Initiative’, that aims to 'dramatically' reduce barriers to GPU computing, using its own AMD FirePro Graphics as a vehicle; new tools promise compute power of 28 Teraflops, for under 1 kW energy, by next year (2016)

Building on its strategic investments in heterogeneous system architecture (HSA), AMD's announcement is of a suite of tools designed to ease development of high-performance, energy efficient heterogeneous computing systems. The "Boltzmann Initiative" exploits HSA's ability to harness both central processing units (CPU) and AMD FirePro graphics processing units (GPU) for maximum compute efficiency through software. The first results of the initiative are featured this week at the SC15 event (Supercomputing 2015) and include the Heterogeneous Compute Compiler (HCC); a headless Linux driver and HSA runtime infrastructure for cluster-class, High Performance Computing (HPC); and the Heterogeneous-compute Interface for Portability (HIP) tool for porting CUDA-based applications to a common C++ programming model. The tools are designed to drive application performance across markets ranging from machine learning to molecular dynamics, and from oil and gas to visual effects and computer-generated imaging.

"AMD's Heterogeneous-compute Interface for Portability enables performance portability for the HPC community. The ability to take code that was written for one architecture and transfer it to another architecture without a negative impact on performance is extremely powerful," said Jim Belak, co-lead of the U.S. Department of Energy's Exascale Co-design Center in Extreme Materials and senior computational materials scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "The work AMD is doing to produce a high-performance compiler that sits below high-level programming models enables researchers to concentrate on solving problems and publishing groundbreaking research rather than worrying about hardware-specific optimizations."

The promise of combining multi-core, serial processing CPUs with parallel-processing GPUs to maximise compute efficiency is already being seen in the industry, as driven by the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture ( HSA) Foundation that counts AMD as a founding member. One of the goals for HSA is easing the development of parallel applications through use of higher level languages. The new AMD "Boltzmann Initiative" suite includes an HCC compiler for C++ development, greatly expanding the field of programmers who can make use of HSA. The