OpenCL technology may speed up 'Snow Leopard'

The technology allows developers to tap into the latent power of graphics chips

A recently-approved technology standard should help software developers to tap the latent processing power of graphics chips and transform regular computers into veritable supercomputers -- at least for certain applications. Poised to take advantage of the technology first is Apple.

Based on the popular C programming language, version 1.0 of OpenCL was ratified and published by standards body The Khronos Group last week. The OpenCL programming language developed by Apple lets applications offload much of the processing from the CPUs to a computer's graphics chip, or GPU.

Modern GPUs from Nvidia, AMD subsidiary ATI and Intel are as powerful as regular CPUs -- in some cases more so. For instance, ATI's latest Radeon HD 4870 GPU has almost 1 billion transistors, more than twice as many transistors as parent AMD's most powerful quad-core Phenom CPU.

Even when they are helping to display hyper-realistic first-person shooter video games or encoding video, GPUs tend to be woefully underutilized. OpenCL can solve that by allowing GPUs to acclerate many applications, especially those whose work can be broken down into many smaller parallel calculations, such as low-level number crunching, high-resolution graphics rendering and video encoding.

For those operations, GPUs "are blindingly fast," said Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group. Encoding and rendering high-def video can be done between 40 to 100 times faster when apps are recompiled with OpenCL, said Olds. Health-care applications such as those processing MRIs and CAT scans would see similar acceleration, he said.

"When you compare the performance to a standard Mac, this will sound like a supercomputer to some people," he said.

Ian Lao, an analyst with In-Stat Inc., agreed. "This is not total hyperbole," he said. "The moment I enable OpenCL, I can take a desktop computer into the low-to-mid-end server/supercomputer category."

Apple the immediate beneficiary

Apple looks to be the chief immediate beneficiary of OpenCL, which will be supported in its forthcoming move to Mac OS X 10.6, codenamed "Snow Leopard."

"That hides some of the complexity of OpenCL, such as the need for OS X to detect and download separate graphics drivers," said Lao, though he noted that Macs will still need specific Nvidia or ATI graphics chips to take advantage of the technology.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags software developmentCOpenCL

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Lai

Computerworld
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?