AMD positions FirePro S10000 against both TESLA K10 (and K20)

During the “little” HPC-show, SC12, several vendors have launched some very impressive products. Question is who steals the show from whom? Intel got their Phi-processor finally launched, NVIDIA came with the TESLA K20 plus K20X, and AMD introduced the FirePro S10000.

This card is the fastest card out there with 5.91 TFLOPS of processing power – much faster than the TESLA K20X, which only does 3.95 TFLOPS. But comparing a dual-GPU to a single-GPU card is not always fair. The moment you choose to have more than one GPU (several GPUs in one case or a small cluster), the S10000 can be fully compared to the Tesla K20 and K20X.

The S10000 can be seen as a dual-GPU version of the S90000, but does not fully add up. Most obvious is the big difference in power-usage (325 Watt) and the active cooling. As server-cases are made for 225 Watt cooling-power, this is seen as a potential possible disadvantage. But AMD has clearly looked around – for GPUs not 1U-cases are used, but 3U-servers using the full width to stack several GPUs.

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AMD’s answer to NVIDIA TESLA K10: the FirePro S9000

Recently AMD announced their new FirePro GPUs to be used in servers: the S9000 (shown at the right) and the S7000. They use passive cooling, as server-racks are actively cooled already. AMD partners for servers will have products ready Q1 2013 or even before. SuperMicro, Dell and HP will probably be one of the first.

What does this mean? We finally get a very good alternative to TESLA: servers with probably 2 (1U) or 4+ (3U) FirePro GPUs giving 6.46 to up to 12.92 TFLOPS or more theoretical extra performance on top of the available CPU. At StreamComputing we are happy with that, as AMD is a strong OpenCL-supporter and FirePro GPUs give much more performance than TESLAs. It also outperforms the unreleased Intel Xeon Phi in single precision and is close in double precision.

Edit: About the multi-GPU configuration

A multi-GPU card has various advantages as it uses less power and space, but does not compare to a single GPU. As the communication goes via the PCI-bus still, the compute-capabilities between two GPU cards and a multi-GPU card is not that different. Compute-problems are most times memory-bound and that is an important factor that GPUs outperform CPUs, as they have a very high memory bandwidth. Therefore I put a lot of weight on memory and cache available per GPU and core.

Continue reading “AMD’s answer to NVIDIA TESLA K10: the FirePro S9000”

NVIDIA’s Industry-Leading “Support” For OpenCL

If you are looking for the samples in one zip-file, scroll down. The removed OpenCL-PDFs are also available for download.

This sentence “NVIDIA’s Industry-Leading Support For OpenCL” was proudly used on NVIDIA’s OpenCL page last year. It seems that NVIDIA saw a great future for OpenCL on their GPUs. But when CUDA began borrowing the idea of using LLVM for compiling kernels, NVIDIA’s support for OpenCL slowly started to fade instead. Since with LLVM CUDA-kernels can be loaded in OpenCL and vice versa, this could have brought the two techniques more together.

What is the cause for this decreased support for OpenCL? Did they suddenly got aware LLVM would decrease any advantage of CUDA over OpenCL and therefore decreased support for OpenCL? Or did they decide so long ago, as their last OpenCL-conformant product on Windows is from July 2010? We cannot be sure, but we do know NVIDIA does not have an official statement on the matter.

The latest action demonstrating NVIDIA’s reduced support of OpenCL is the absence of the samples in their GPGPU-SDK. NVIDIA removed them without notice or clear statement on their position on OpenCL. Therefore we decided to start a petition to get these OpenCL samples back. The only official statement on the removal of the samples was on LinkedIn:

All of our OpenCL code samples are available at, and the latest versions all work on the new Kepler GPUs.
They are released as a separate download because developers using OpenCL don’t need the rest of the CUDA Toolkit, which is getting to be quite large.
Sorry if this caused any alarm, we’re just trying to make life a little easier for OpenCL developers.

Best regards,


William Ramey
Sr. Product Manager, GPU Computing
NVIDIA Corporation

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The CPU is dead. Long live the CPU!

Scene from Gladiator when is decided on the end of somebody’s life.

Look at the computers and laptops sold at your local computer shop. There are just few systems with a separate GPU, neither as PCI-device nor integrated on the motherboard. The graphics are handled by the CPU now. The Central Processing Unit as we knew it is dying.

To be clear I will refer to an old CPU as “GPU-less CPU”, and name the new CPU (with GPU included) as plain “CPU” or “hybrid Processor”. There are many names for the new CPU with all their own history, which I will discuss in this article.

The focus is on X86. The follow-up article is on whether the king X86 will be replaced by king ARM.

Know that all is based on my own observations; please comment if you have nice information.

Continue reading “The CPU is dead. Long live the CPU!”

NVIDIA: mobile phones, tablets and HPC (cloud)

If you want to see what is coming up in the market of consumer-technology (PC, mobile and tablet), then NVIDIA can tell you the most. The company is very flexible, and shows time after time it really knows in which markets is currently operates and can enter. I sometimes strongly disagree with their marketing, but watch them closely as they are in the most important markets to define the near future in: PCs, Mobile/Tablet and HPC.
You might think I completely miss interconnects (buses between processors, devices and memory) and memory-technologies as clouds have a large need for high-speed data-transport, but the last 20 years have shown that this is a quite stable developing market based on IP-selling to the hardware-vendors. With the acquisition of Cray’s interconnect technology, we have seen this is serious business for Intel, so things might change indeed. For this article I want to focus on NVIDIA’s choices.

Neil Trevett on OpenCL

The Khronos Group gave some talks on their technologies in Shanghai China on the 17th of March 2012. Neil Trevett did some interesting remarks on the position of NVidia on OpenCL I would like to share with you. Neil Trevett is both an important member of Khronos and employee of NVidia. To be more precise, he is the Vice President Mobile Content of NVidia and the president of Khronos. I think we can take his comments serious, but we must be very careful as these are mixed with his personal opinions.

Regular readers of the blog have seen I am not enthusiastic at all about NVidia’s marketing, but am a big fan of their hardware. And exactly I am very positive they are bold enough in the industry to position themselves very well with the fast-changing markets of the upcoming years. Having said that, let’s go to the quotes.

All quotes were from this video. Best you can do is to start at 41:50 till 45:35.

At 44:05 he states: “In the mobile I think space CUDA is unlikely to be widely adopted“, and explains: “A party API in the mobile industry doesn’t really meet market needs“. Then continues with his vision on OpenCL: “I think OpenCL in the mobile is going to be fundamental to bring parallel computation to mobile devices” and then “and into the web through WebCL“.

Also interesting at 44:55: “In the end NVidia doesn’t really mind which API is used, CUDA or OpenCL. As long as you are get to use great GPUs“. He ends with a smile, as “great GPUs” refers to NVidia’s of course. 🙂

At 45:10 he puts NVidia’s plans on HPC, before getting back to : “NVidia is going to support both [CUDA and OpenCL] in HPC. In Mobile it’s going to be all OpenCL“.

At 45:23 he repeats his statements: “In the mobile space I expect OpenCL to be the primary tool“.

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Installing both NVidia GTX and AMD Radeon on Linux for OpenCL

August 2012: article has been completely rewritten and updated. For driver-specific issues, please refer to this article.

Want to have both your GTX and Radeon working as OpenCL-devices under Linux? The bad news is that attempts to get Radeon as a compute device and the GTX as primary all failed. The good news is that the other way around works pretty easy (with some luck). You need to install both drivers and watch out that isn’t overwritten by NVidia’s driver as we won’t use that GPU for graphics – this is also the reason why it is impossible to use the second GPU for OpenGL.

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OpenCL Developer support by NVIDIA, AMD and Intel

There was some guy at Microsoft who understood IT very well while being a businessman: “Developers, developers, developers, developers!”. You saw it again in the mobile market and now with OpenCL. Normally I watch his yearly speech to see which product they have brought to their own ecosphere, but the developers-speech is one to watch over and over because he is so right about this! (I don’t recommend the house-remixes, because those stick in your head for weeks.)

Since OpenCL needs to be optimised for each platform, it is important for the companies that developers start developing for their platform first. StreamComputer is developing a few different Eclipse-plugins for OpenCL-development, so we were curious what was already there. Why not share all findings with you? I will keep this article updated – know this article does not cover which features are supported by each SDK.

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Waiting for Mobile OpenCL – Q1 2011

About 5 months ago we started waiting for Mobile OpenCL. Meanwhile we had all the news around ARM on CES in January, and of course all those beta-programs made progress meanwhile. And after a year of having “support“, we actually want to see the words “SDK” and/or “driver“. So who’s leading? Ziilabs, ImTech, Vivante, Qualcomm, FreeScale or newcomer nVIDIA?

Mobile phone manufacturers could have a big problem with the low-level access to the GPU. While most software can be sandboxed in some form, OpenCL can crash the phone. But at the other side, if the program hasn’t taken down the developer’s test-phone, the chances are low it will take any other phone. And also there are more low-level access-points to the phone. So let’s check what has happened until now.

Note: this article will be updated if more news comes from MWC ’11.


For mobile devices Khronos has specified a profile, which is optimised for (ARM) phones: OpenCL Embedded Profile. Read on for the main differences (taken from a presentation by Nokia).

Main differences

  • Adapting code for embedded profile
  • Added macro __EMBEDDED_PROFILE__
  • CL_PLATFORM_PROFILE capabilityreturns the string EMBEDDED_PROFILE if only the embedded profile is supported
  • Online compiler is optional
  • No 64-bit integers
  • Reduced requirements for constant buffers, object allocation, constant argument count and local memory
  • Image & floating point support matches OpenGL ES 2.0 texturing
  • The extensions of full profile can be applied to embedded profile

Continue reading “Waiting for Mobile OpenCL – Q1 2011”

OpenCL mini buying guide for X86

Developing with OpenCL is fun, if you like debugging. Having software with support for OpenCL is even more fun, because no debugging is needed. But what would be a good machine? Below is an overview of what kind of hardware you have to think about; it is not in-depth, but gives you enough information to make a decision in your local or online computer store.

Companies who want to build a cluster, contact us for information. Professional clusters need different hardware than described here.

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NVIDIA’s answer to SandyBridge and Fusion

Intel has Sandy Bridge, AMD has Fusion, now NVIDIA has a combination of CPU and GPU too: Project Denver. The only difference is that it is not X86-based, but an ARM-architecture. And most-probable the most powerful ARM-GPU of 2011.

For years there were ARM-based Systems-on-a-chip: a CPU and a GPU combined (see list below). On the X86-platform the “integrated GPU” was on the motherboard, and since this year now both AMD/ATI and Intel hit this “new market”.The big advantage is that it’s cheaper to produce, is more powerful per Watt (in total) and has good acceleration-potential. NVIDIA does not have X86-chips and would have been the big loser of 2011; they did everything to reinvent themselves: 3D was reintroduced, CUDA was actively developed and pushed (free libraries and tools, university-programs, many books and trainings, Tesla, etc), a mobile Tegra graphics solution [1] (see image at the right),  and all existing products got extra backing from the marketing-department. A great time for researchers who needed to get free products in exchange of naming NVIDIA in their research-reports.

NVIDIA chose for ARM; interesting for who is watching the CUDA-vs-OpenCL battle, since CUDA was for GPUs of NVIDIA on X86 and ARM was solely for OpenCL. Period. In the contrary to their other ARM-based chips, this new chip probably won’t be in smartphones (yet); it targets systems that need more GPU-power like CUDA and games.

In a few days the article about Windows-on-ARM is to be released, which completes this article.

Continue reading “NVIDIA’s answer to SandyBridge and Fusion”

New grown-ups on the block

Members of the band There is one big reason StreamComputing chose for OpenCL and that is (future) hardware-support. I talked about NVIDIA versus AMD a lot, but knowing others would join soon. AMD is correct when they say the future is fusion: hybrid computing with a single chip holding both CPU- and GPU-cores, sharing the same memory and interconnected at high speed. Merging the technologies would also give possible much higher bandwidths to memory for the CPU. Let us see in short which products from experienced companies will appear on the OpenCL-stage.

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OpenCL – the battle, part III

The first two parts described hardware-companies and operating systems, programming languages and software-companies, written about half a year ago. Now we focus on what has driven NVIDIA and ATI/AMD for decades: games.

Disclaimer: this is an opinion-piece on the current market. We are strong supporters of OpenCL and all companies which support it too. Since our advise on specific hardware in a consult will be based on specific demands on the customer, we could advise differently than would be expected on the below article.


Computer games are cool; merely because you choose from so many different kinds. While Tetris will live forever, the latest games also have something to add: realistic physics simulation. And that’s what’s done by GPUs now. Nintendo has shown us that gameplay and good interaction are far more important than video-quality. The wow-factor for photo-realistic real-time rendering is not as it was years ago.
You might know the basics for falling objects: F = m*g (Force = Mass times Gravity-acceleration), and action = – reaction. If you drop some boxes, you can predict falling speed, interaction, rotation and possible change of centre of gravity from a still image as a human being. A computer has to do a lot more to detect collision, but the idea is very doable on a fast CPU. A very well-known open source library for these purposes is Bullet Physics. The nice thing comes, when there is more than just a few boxes, but thousands of them. Or when you walk through water or under a waterfall, see fire and smoke, break wood but bend metal, etc. The accelerometer of the iPod was a game-changer too in the demand for more realism in graphics. For an example of a “physics puzzle game” not using GPGPU see World of Goo (with free demo) – for the rest we talk more about high-end games. Of current game-ready systems PCs (Apple, Linux and Windows) have OpenCL support, Sony PlayStation 3 is now somewhat vague and the Xbox 360 has none.

The picture is from Crysis 3, which does not use OpenCL, as we know it.

Continue reading “OpenCL – the battle, part III”

X86 Systems-on-a-Chip and GPGPU

The System-on-a-chip (SoC) for X86 will be a revolution for GPGPU. Why? Because currently a big problem is transferring data from CPU-memory to GPU-memory and back, which will be solved with SoCs. Below you can read this architecture-target is very possible.

With AMD+ATI, Intel and its future high-end GPUs, and NVidia with the rumours around its X86-chips, we will certainly get changes in the field. If it is the way to go, what is probable?

  1. Get both CPU and high-end GPU on 1 chip, separated memory
  2. Techniques for sharing memory
  3. Translating OpenCL from and to C on the fly

ARM-processors are combined with GPUs a lot of times, but they don’t have current support for a common shader-languages (read: OpenCL) to make GPGPU in reach. We’ve asked ourselves many times why ARM & friends are involved in OpenCL since the beginning, but still don’t have any public and promoted driver-support. More on ARM, once there is more news on multi-core ARM-CPUs or OpenCL drivers.

1: One chip for everything

The biggest problem with split CPU/GPU-functionality is the bus-speed between the two is limited. The higher this speed, the more useful GPGPU can be. The highest speeds are possible when the signal does not have to leave the chip and there are no concessions made to the architecture of the graphics-card, in other words: glueing CPU and GPU together, but leave the memory-buses the same.

Currently there is Intel’s Nehalem and AMD’s Fusion, but they use DDR3 for both GPU and CPU; this will not really unlock the GPGPU-possibilities of high-end GPUs. It seems these products were designed with lower costs in mind.

But the chances high-end GPUs will be integrated on the CPU is rising. Going to 32nm gives room for more functionality, such as GPUs. Other choices can be smaller chips, more cores and integrating functionality of the north/south-bridge of the motherboard. If GPU-cores can be turned off when not working optimally when being tested in the factory (just like they do with mult-core CPUs), integrating high-end GPU-cores will even become a save choice.

Another way it could go is using optical buses between the GPU and CPU. It’s unknown if it will really see mainstream markets soon enough.

2: Shared memory – new style

Some levels of cache and all memory should be easy accessible by both types of cores. Why? Because eventually you want to switch between CPU- and GPU-instructions continuously. CUDA has a nice feature already, which keeps objects synchronised between CPU and GPU; one step further is leaving out the need of synchronising.

The problem is that video-memory is accessed more parallel to provide higher data-speeds (GDDR5), so we don’t want to limit the GPU by attaching them to slower (=lower bandwidth) DDR3. Doing it the other way would then be the best solution: giving CPUs direct access to GDDR. There is always a probable option that a new type of (replaceable) memory will be used, which has a dual-bus by design.

The hard part is memory-protection; since now more devices get control to memory, the overhead of controlling/arranging the spots can increase enormously and might need a separate core for it – just like the Cell-processor. This need-for-control is a reason I don’t expect access to each other memory before there will be a fast bus between GPU and CPU, since then the access to GDDR via the GPU’s memory-manager will be much faster and maybe even fast enough.

3: Grown up software

If software would be able to easily select devices and use the same code for each device, then we’ve made a giant step forwards. Software has always been one step behind hardware; so when you do not develop such techniques, you just have to wait a while.

Translating OpenCL into normal C and back will be possible in all kinds of ways, once there is more acceptance of (and thus demand for) GPGPU. AMD’s OpenCL-implementation for CPUs is also a way to merge the fields of CPU and GPU. It’s hard to tell how these techniques will merge, but it will certainly happen. Think of situations that some instructions will be sent to the GPU by the OS even when the (OpenCL) programmer did not think of it. Or do you expect to be an ARM-processor integrated in a near-future CPU, when you write an OpenCL-kernel now?

See our article on the bright future of GPGPU to read more about it.

What’s next?

In case this is the way it goes, there will be a lot possible for both OpenCL and CUDA – depending on market demands. Some possibilities will be discussed in an upcoming article about FPGAs, but also let me hear what you think about X86-SoCs. Comment or send an e-mail.

Difference between CUDA and OpenCL 2010


Most GPGPU-enthusiasts have heard of both OpenCL and CUDA. While there are more solutions, these have the most potential. Both techniques are very comparable like a BMW and a Mercedes, but there are some differences. Since the technologies will evolve, we’ll take a look at the differences again next year. We’ve discussed this difference in a with a focus on marketing earlier this year.

Disclaimer: we have a strong focus on OpenCL (but actually for reasons explained in this article).


If you have seen kernels of OpenCL and CUDA, you see the biggest difference might be the prefix “cl_” or the prefix “cu_”, but there is also a difference in terminology.

Matt Harvey (developer of Cuda2OpenCL-translator Swan) has summed up the differences in a presentation “Experiences porting from CUDA to OpenCL” (PDF):

CUDA term OpenCL term
GPU Device
Multiprocessor Compute Unit
Scalar core Processing element
Global memory Global memory
Shared (per-block) memory Local memory
Local memory (automatic, or local) Private memory
kernel program
block work-group
thread work item

As far as I know, the kernel-program is also called a kernel in OpenCL. Personally I like Cuda’s terms “thread” and “per-block memory” more. It is very clear CUDA targets the GPU only, while in OpenCL it an be any device.

Edit 2011-01-15: In a talk by Sami Rosendahl the differences are also discussed.


We would like to present you a benchmark between OpenCL and CUDA with full comparison, but we don’t have enough hardware in-house to do a full benchmark. Below information is what we’ve found on the net and a little bit based on our own experience.

On NVidia hardware, OpenCL is up to 10% slower (see Matt Harvey’s presentation); this is mainly because OpenCL is implemented on top of CUDA-architecture (this shouldn’t be a reason, but to say NVidia has put more energy in CUDA is just a wild guess also). On ATI 4000-series OpenCL is just slow, but gives very comparable to NVidia if compared to the 5000-series. The specialised streaming processors NVidia’s Tesla and AMD’s FireStream really bite each other, while the Playstation 3 unbelievably still wins on some tasks.

The architecture AMD/ATI-hardware is very different from NVidia’s and that’s why a kernel written with a specific brand or GPU in mind just performs better than a version which is not optimised. So if you do a benchmark, it really depends on which kernels you use for it. To be more precise: any benchmark can be written in favour of a specific architecture. Fine-tuning the software to work a maximum speed in current and future(!) hardware for different kinds of datasets is (still) a specialised task for that reason. This is also one of the current problems of GPGPU, but kernel-optimisers will get better.

If you like pictures, Hugh Merz comes to the rescue, who compared CUDA-FFT against FFTW (“the fastest FFT in the West”). The page is offline now, but you it was clear that the data-transfer from and to the GPU is a huge bottleneck and Hugh Merz was rather sceptical about GPU-computing in 2007. He extended his benchmark with the PS3 and a Tesla-s1070 and now you see bigger differences. Since CPUs go multi-multi-core, you cannot tell how big this gap will be in the future; but you can tell the gap will be bigger and CPUs will more and more be programmed like GPUs (massively parallel).

What we learn from this is 1) that different devices will improve if the demands are more clear, and 2) that it will be all about specialisation, since different manufacturers will hear different demands. The latest GPUs from AMD works much better with OpenCL, the next might beat all others in a many or only specific areas in 2011 – who knows? IBM’s Cell-processor is expected to enter the ring outside the home-brew PS3 render-farms, but with what specialised product? NVidia wants to enter high in the HPC-world, and they might even win it. ARM is developing multiple-core CPUs, but will it support OpenCL for a better FLOP/Watt than competitors?

It’s all about the choices manufacturers make, which way CUDA en OpenCL will develop.

Homogeneous vs Heterogeneous

For us the most important reason to have chosen for OpenCL, even if CUDA is more mature. While CUDA only targets NVidia’s GPUs (homogeneous), OpenCL can target any digital device that has an input and an output (very heterogeneous). AMD/ATI and Intel are both on the path of making architectures that are heterogeneous; just like Systems-on-a-Chip (SoCs) based on an ARM-architecture. Watch for our upcoming article about ARM & SoCs.

While I was searching for more information about this difference, I came across a blog-item by RogueWave, which claims something different. I think they switched Intel’s architectures with NVidia’s or he knew things were going to change. In the near future could bring us an x86-chip from NVidia. This will change a lot in the field, so more about this later. They already have an ARM-chip in their Tegra mobile processor, so NVidia/CUDA still has some big bullets.

Missing language-features

Like Java and .NET are very comparable, developers from both side know very well that their favourite feature is missing at the other camp. Most time such a feature is an external library, just built in. Or is it taste? Or even a stack of soapboxes?

OpenCL has:

  • Task-parallel execution mode (to be used on CPUs) – not needed on NVidia’s GPUs.

CUDA has unique features too:

  • FFT library – so in OpenCL you need to have your own kernels for it.
  • Atomic operations – which make double-write threads easier to implement.
  • Hardware texture interpolation – OpenCL has to fall back to a larger kernel or OpenGL.
  • Templating – in openCL you have to create new kernels for every data-type.

In short CUDA certainly has made a lot of things just easier for the developer, but OpenCL has its potential in support for more than just GPUs. All differences are based on this difference in focus-area.

I’m pretty sure this list is not complete at all, and only explains the type of differences. So please come to the LinkedIn GPGPU Users Group to discuss this.

Last words


As it is done with more shared standards, there is no win and no gain to promote it. If you promote it, a lot of companies thank you, but the Rreturn-on-Investments is lower than when you have your own standard. So OpenCL is just used-as-it-is-available, while CUDA is highly promoted; for that reason more people invest in partnerships with NVidia to use CUDA instead of non-profit organisation Khronos. And eventually CUDA-drivers can be ported to IBM’s Cell-processors or to ARM, since it is very comparable to OpenCL. It really depends on the profit NVidia will make with such deals, so who can tell what will happen.

We still think OpenCL will win eventually on consumer-markets (desktop and mobile) because of support for more devices, but CUDA will stay a big player in professional and scientific markets because of the legacy software they are currently building up and the more friendly development-support. We hope they will both exist and help each other push forward, just like OpenGL vs DirectX, nVidia vs ATI, Europe vs the USA vs Asia, etc. Time will tell what features will eventually end up in each technology.

Update August 2012: due to higher demand StreamComputing is explicitly offering CUDA to OpenCL porting

All the members of the OpenCL working group 2010

(If you’re searching for companies who offer OpenCL-products and services, please visit OpenCL:Pro)

You probably have heard AMD is on the OpenCL working group of Khronos; but there are many more and they possibly all have plans to use it. Here is an overview, so you can make your own conclusions about the future that lays ahead. Is your company on “the list”?

We’re specially interested in the less known companies, so most information is about the companies you and us possibly have not heard from before. We’ve made  assumptions what the companies use OpenCL for, so we need your feedback if you think we’re wrong! Most of these companies have not openly written about their (future) accelerated products, so we had to make those guesses.

Disclaimer: All brand and product names are or may be trademarks of, and are used to identify products or services of, their respective owners.

Last updated 6-Oct-2010.

GPU Manufacturers

GPUs being the first products targeted by OpenCL, we blast away with a list of CPU-manufacturers. You might see some unknown companies and now know which companies missed the train; it is pretty clear why GPU-manufacturers have interest in OpenCL.
We skip the companies who have a GPU-stack built upon ARM-techology and only focus on pure GPU-manufacturers in this category.


We’ve already discussed the biggest fan of OpenCL several times. While having better GPU-cards than NVIDIA (arguable per quarter of the year), they put their bets completely on OpenCL. They even get credits like “AMD’s OpenCL” when compared with NVIDIA’s CUDA.

The end of 2010, beginning of 2011 they will ship their Fusion-product having a CPU and GPU on one chip. The first Fusion-chips will not have a high-end GPU because of heating problems, is told to PC-store employees.


AMD’s biggest competitor with the very well marketed similar product CUDA. Currently they have the most specialised products in market for servers. While they put more energy in their own technology CUDA, it must be said that they have adopted OpenCL more than any other hardware vendor.


The biggest part of the CPU-market is for Intel en guess once, who has the biggest GPU-market in hands? Correct: onboard-GPUs are Intel’s speciality, but their high-end GPU Larrabee might once see the market. Just like AMD they have the technology (and products) to have an integrated CPU/GPU which will be very interesting for the upcoming OpenCL-market.

They are openly interested in OpenCL. Here is a nice interview which explains how a CPU-designer looks at GPU-designs.


Vivante manufactures GPU-chips. They claim their OpenGL ES 2.0-compliant silicon footprint is the smallest on the market. There is a lot of talk about OpenGL Shader Language (OpenCL’s grandpa), for which their products are very well suited for. Quote: “The recent trend in graphics hardware has been to replace fixed functionality with programmability in areas that have grown exceedingly complex, such as vertex processing and fragment processing. The OpenGL® Shading Language was designed to allow application programmers to express the processing that occurs at those programmable points of the OpenGL pipeline. Independently compilable units written in this language are called shaders. A program is a set of shaders that are compiled and linked together.”


Japanese corporation Takumi manufactures the GSHARK, a 2D/3D hardware accelerator. The focus is on shaders, like Vivante.

Imagination Technologies (ImTech)

From their homepage: >>POWERVR enables a powerful and flexible solution for all forms of multimedia processing, including 3D/2D/vector graphics and general purpose processing (GP-GPU) including image processing.

POWERVR’s unique tile-based, deferred rendering/shading architecture allows a very small area of a die to deliver higher performance and image quality at lower power consumption than all competing technologies. All major APIs are supported including OpenGL ES 2.0/1.1, OpenVG 1.1, OpenGL 2.0/3.0 and DirectX9/10.1 and OpenCL.<<

Currently all ARM-based OpenCL-capable devices have POWERVR-technology.


Like other huge Japanese everything-factories, you don’t know what else they make. Besides rice cookers they also make multimedia chips.


Once they were big in the consumer-market of graphics cards, but S3 still exists as a more business-oriented manufacturer of graphics products.

CPU Manufacturers

We miss the Power Architecture, but IBM and Freescale are members of this group.


While AMD tries to make OpenCL available for the CPU, we have not heard of a similar product from Intel yet. They see a future for multi-core CPUs, as seen in these slides.


Most known for its same-named low-power processor, not supported by MS Windows. You can read below how many companies have a license on their technology. Together with POWERVR-technology they power all the embedded OpenCL devices of the coming year.


Currently they are most known for their Cell-processor (co-developed with Toshiba and Sony) and have a license to build PowerArchitecture-CPUs. The Cell has full OpenCL-support as first non-GPU. Older types of PS3s (without the latest firmware) ad IBM’s servers can use the power of OpenCL. End of June 2010 Khronos conformed their “Development Kit for Linux” for Power VMX and PowerXCell8i processors.


Once a Motorola-division, they make lots of different CPUs. Besides ARM- and PowerArchitecure-based ones, they also have it’s own ‘Coldfire’. We cannot say for which architecture they are interested in OpenCL, but we really would like to hear something from them since they can open many markets for OpenCL.

Systems on a Chip (SoC)

While it is cool to have a GPU-card in your pc, more and more the Graphics-functionality is integrated onto a CPU. Especially in the mobile/embedded/gadget-market you’ll find such System-on-a-Chip solutions, which are actually all ARM- or PowerArchitecture based.

3DLABS (ZiiLabs)

Creators of embedded hardware with focus on handhelds. They have partners of Khronos for a long time, having built the first merchant OpenGL GPU, the GLINT 300SX. They have just released a multimedia-processor, which is an ARM-processor with pretty interesting graphic capabilities.

They have an “early access program for OpenCL” for their ZMS product line.


On their Technology overview-page they imply they have flexible accelerators in their designs, which *could* in the future be controlled by OpenCL-kernels. They manufacture mobile GPUs-plus-loads-of-extras which are quite impressive.

Texas Instruments

Besides ARM-based processors they also have DSPs. We watch them, for which product they have OpenCL in mind.


They might be most famous for their ARM-based Snapdragon-chipset. They have much more products, but we think they start with Snapdragon before building OpenCL in other products.


The Apple A4 powers their new products, the iPad. It becomes more and more clear Apple has really learned that you cannot rely on one supplier, after waiting for IBM’s G6. With OpenCL Apple can now make software that works on ARM, all kind of GPUs and CPUs.


They make anything that is fed by batteries, so for that reason they should be in the “other” category: mobile phones, mp3-players, photo-cameras, camcorders, laptops, TVs, DVD-players and Bluray-players. All products where OpenCL can wield.

A good reason to make their own semi-conductors, ARM-based.

In the beginning of June 2010 they have launched their own Linux-based OS for mobiles: Bada.


Manufactures networking and communications ICs for data, voice, and video applications. They could use OpenCL for their mobile multimedia processors.


Since September acquired by Presagis. We cannot be sure they continue the OpenCL-business of Seaweed, but at least GPGPU is mentioned once.

Presagis is “the worldwide leader in embedded graphics solutions for mission-critical display applications.  The company has provided human-machine interface (HMI) graphical modeling tools, drivers and devices for embedded systems for over 20 years. Presagis pioneered both the prototyping of display graphics and automatic code generation for embedded systems in the 1990s. Since then, code generated by its flagship HMI modeling products  has been deployed to hundreds of aircraft worldwide and its software has been certified on over 30 major aircraft programs worldwide.   Presagis is your trusted partner for reliable, high-performance embedded graphics products and services.”

ST Microelectronics

ST has many products: “Singapore Technologies Electronics is a leader in ICT. It has main businesses in Enterprise, Satellite Communications and Interactive Digital Media. It is divided into several Strategic Business Units consisting of Info-Comms, Info-Software, Training and Simulation, Electro-Optics, Large Scale Group, Satcom & Sensor Systems.”

We think they’ve shown interest for OpenCL for use with their Imaging processors. Together with Ericsson they have a joint-venture in de mobile market, ST-Ericsson.

Handheld Manufacturers

While most companies will find it hard to make OpenCL-business in the consumer-market, consumer-products of other companies make sales a little bit warmer.


At least the iPad and iPhone have hardware-capabilities of running OpenCL. It is expected that it will come available in the next major release of the iPhone-OS, iOS 4. We’re waiting for more news.


The largest manufacturer of mobile phones from Finland has a lot of technology. Besides smartphones, possibly a netbook (in cooperation with Intel) they also have Symbian and the QT-library. Since a while QT has support for OpenCL. We think the support of OpenCL in programming languages (in a more high-level way) is very important. See these slides to read some insights of the company.


They have consumer products like mobile phones and business products like networking. It is not clear where they are going to use OpenCL for, since they mostly use other companies’ technologies.


While OpenCL can revive old computers once upgraded with a new GPU, imagine what they can do with Super-computers.


IBM builds super-computers based on different technologies. With OpenCL-support for their Power VMX and PowerXCell8i processors, it is already possible to use OpenCL with IBM-hardware.


They have many products, but they also make super-computers which use GPGPU.

Los Alamos National Laboratory

They build super-computers and really can use the extra power.

A job-post talks about heterogeneous architectures and OpenCL.


Petapath, founded in 2008, focuses on delivering innovative hardware and software solutions into the high performance computing (HPC) and embedded markets. As can be seen from their homepage they build grids.


As a newcomer in the super-computer business, they do very well having helped to build the #2 HPC. Many clusters are upgraded with their streaming-processors.

Other Hardware

We don’t know what they are actually doing with the technology, purely because they are to big to make assumptions.


US-based electronics-giant General Electronics builds everything there is, fed by electricity and now also GPGPU-powered solutions as can be found on their GPGPU-page. They probably switched to CUDA.


Ericsson together with ST they have a joint-venture in de mobile market, ST-Ericsson. Ericssson is big in (mobile) networking. It also builds mobile phones with Sony. It is unclear what the joint-venture wants to do with the technology, but it must be mobile.

Software Developers

While OpenCL is very close to hardware, we have to talk software too. Did anybody say there is a strict line between hardware and software?

Graphic Remedy

Builders of debugging software. You will hear later more from us about this company soon. See something about debugging in this presentation.


RapidMind provided a software product that aims to make it simpler for software developers to target multi-core processors and accelerators (GPUs). It was acquired by Intel in august 2009.


Japanese corporation HI has a product MascotCapsule, which is a real-time 3D rendering engine (native library) that runs on embedded devices. We see names of other companies, except SMedia. If you’re not familiar with mobile GPUs, here you have a list.

This is another big hint, OpenCL will have a big future on mobile devices.

MascotCapsule V4 product specification

CPU ARM: ARM9 or above
Freescale: i.MX Series
Marvell: XScale
Qualcomm: MSM6280/6550/7200/7500 etc.
Renesas Technology: SH-Mobile etc.
Texas Instruments: OMAP
32-bit 150 MHz or above is recommended
(Capable of running without a floating-point hardware)
Code size Approx. 200 KB
work area
2 MB or more is recommended, including data load area
Note: The actual required work area varies depending on the content
3D hardware
ATI: Imageon
Imagination Technologies: PowerVR MBX/MBX Lite/SGX
SMedia: Glamo
Toshiba: T4G/T5G
Other OpenGL ES compliant 3D accelerators
OS/platforms BREW, iPhone, iPod touch, ITRON, Java, Linux, Symbian OS, Windows CE, Windows Mobile
3D authoring tools 3ds Max 9.0/2008/2009/2010
Maya 8.5/2008/2009/2010
LightWave3D 7.5 or later
SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5.x/6.x/7.0


They are most famous for their compilers for the Playstation. They also make code-analysis software.


From their homepage: “Middleware, development tools, realtime operating systemsoftware and services for superior embedded design”. Their real-time OS in all kinds of embedded products and they might want to see ways to support specialised low-power chips.

RIM acquired QNX in april 2010.


Newcomer in the list 2010. Famous for their PS3-Linux and for their OpenCL-book. They also have FOXC, Fixstars OpenCL Cross Compiler. They have written one of the few books for OpenCL.

Kestrel Institute does not show anything GPGPU. We’ll probably hear from them when the next version of their Specware-product is finished.

Game Designers

Physics-calculations and AI are too demanding to do on a CPU. The game-industry keeps pushing the GPU-industry, but now on a different way than in the 90’s.

Electronic Arts

This game-studio builds loads and loads of games with impressive AI. See these slides to see what EA thinks GPGPU can do.

Activision Blizzard

Yes, they are one company now, so now they are together famous for best-selling hit “World of Warcraft”. Currently not much is known where they use OpenCL for, but probably the same as EA.

Thank you for your interest in this article

If you know more about OpenCL at these companies or job-posts, please let us know via comment or via e-mail.

We’ve made some assumptions about what these companies use OpenCL for – we need your feedback!

OpenCL – the battle, part I

Part I: the Hardware-companies and Operating Systems

(Part II will be about programming languages and software-companies, part III about the gaming-industry)

OpenCL is the new, but already de-facto standard of stream-computing; but how it got there so fast is somewhat strange. A few years ago there were many companies and research-groups seeing the power of using the GPU, such as:

And the fight is really not over, since we are talking about a big shift in the super-computing industry. Just think of IBM BlueGene, which will lose lots of market to nVidia and AMD. Or Intel, who hasn’t acquired a GPU-creator as AMD did. Who had expected the market to change this rigorous? If we’re honest, we could have seen it coming (when looking at the turbulence around PhysX and Havok), but “normally” this new techniques would be introduced slowly.

The fight is about market-shares. For operating-systems, the user wants to have their movies encoded in 20 minutes just like their neighbour. For HPC-computing, since clusters can be updated for a far lower price than was possible with the old-fashioned way; here it is mostly between Linux HPC and windows HPC (which still has a very small market-share), but also database-engines which rely on high-performance hardware/software.
The most to gain is in the processor-market. The extremely large consumer-market is declining since 2004, since most users do not need more than a netbook and have bought a separate gaming-computer for the more demanding games. We don’t only see Intel and AMD anymore, but IBM’s powerful Cell- en Power-processors, very power-efficient ARM-processors, etc. Now OpenCL could make it more interesting to buy an average processor and a good graphics-card, Intel (and AMD) have no choice then to take the battle with nVidia.

Background: Why Apple made OpenCL

Short answer: pure frustration. All those different implementations would or get a share or fight for being named the standard; Apple wanted to bet on the right horse and therefore took the lead in creating an open standard. Money would be made by updating software and selling more hardware. For that reason Apple’s close partners Intel and nVidia were easily motivated to help developing the standard. Currently Apple’s only (public) reasons for giving away such an expensive and specialised project is publicity and to be ahead of the competition. Since it will not be a core-business of Apple, it does not need to stay in lead, but which companies do?

Acquisitions, acquisition, acquisitions

No time to lose for the big companies, so they must get the knowledge in-house as soon as possible. Below are some examples.

  • Microsoft: Interactive Supercomputing (22-Sept-2009): made Star-P, software which allowed users to perform scientific, engineering or analytical computation on array or matrix-based data to use parallel architectures such as multi-core workstations, multi-processor systems, distributed memory clusters or utility/cloud-based environments. This is completely in the field of OpenCL, which Microsoft needs to strengthen its products as Apple already did, such as SQL-server and Windows HPC.
  • nVidia: Ageia technologies (22-Febr-2008): made specialized PC-cards and software for calculating complicated physics in games. They made the first commercial product aiming at the masses (gamers). PhysX-code could by integrated in nVidia-drivers to be used with modern nVidia-GPUs.
  • AMD: ATI (24-juli-2006): graphics chip specialist. Although the price was too high, it saved AMD from being bought out by Intel and even stay ahead (if they had kept running).
  • Intel: Havok (17-Sept-2007): builds games-tools, such as a physics-engine. After Ageia was captured, the only good company out there to buy; AMD was too late, which spent all its money on ATI. Wind River (4-June-2009): a company providing embedded systems, development tools for embedded systems, middleware, and other types of software. Also read this interesting article. Cilk (31-July-2009): offers parallel extensions that are tightly tied into a compiler. RapidMind (19-Aug-2009): created a high-level language Sh, which had an OpenCL-backend. Intel has a lead in CPU-compilers, which it wants to broaden to multi-core- and GPU-compilers. Intel discovered it was in the group of “old fashioned compiler-builders” and had lots to learn in a short time.

If you know more acquisitions of interest, please let us know.


Apple, Intel and NVidia are the winners for 2009 and 2010. They have currently the most knowledge in house and have their marketing-machine running. NVidia has the best insight for new markets.

Microsoft and Game-developers are second; they took the first train by joining the OpenCL-consortium and taking it very serious. At the end of 2010 Microsoft will be at Apple’s level of expertise, so we will see then who has the best novelties. The game-developers, of which most already have experience with physics-calculations, all had a second chance when they had misjudged the Physics-engines. More on gaming in part III.

AMD is currently actually a big loser, since it does not seem to take it all seriously enough. But AMD can afford to be late, since OpenCL makes it easy to switch. We hope the best for AMD, since it has the technology of both CPU and GPU, and many years of experience in both fields. More on the competition between marketing-monster nVidia and silent AMD will be discussed in a blog-item, next week.

Another possible loser is Linux, which has lots to lose on HPC-market; OpenBSD-based Apple and Windows HPC can actually win market-share now. Expect most from hardware-manufacturers Intel, AMD and nVidia to give code to the community, but also from universities who do lots of research on the ever-flexible Linux. At the end it all depends on OpenCL-adaptation of (Linux-specific) programming-languages, which will be discussed in part II.

ARM is a member of the OpenCL-group but does not seem to invest in it; they seem to target another growing market: the low-power mobile devices. We will write on OpenCL and the mobile market later and why ARM currently can be relaxed about OpenCL.

We hope you have more insights in this new market; please contact us for more specific information and feel free to give your comments. Please stay tuned for part II and III, which will be released the next few weeks.