Engineering World 2011: OpenCL in the Cloud

[Dutch] Op het Sogeti Engineering World 2011 heb ik een presentatie gehouden over OpenCL in de cloud, in het Nederlands. Om the coolheidsfactor te verhogen heb ik gebruik gemaakt van Prezi als contrast met de standaard dia-show-presentaties. Het resultaat treft u hier beneden, maar kan helaas onmogelijk het hele verhaal vertellen dat ik gedeeld heb tijdens de presentatie. Wilt u ergens iets meer van afweten, vraag gewoon of zet een comment onderaan dit artikel. Ik luister naar mijn lezers via Twitter.

De presentation bestaat uit 4 delen: een introductie, uitleg van OpenCL, Mobiele apparaten en and Data-centres. De laatste twee vormen cloud-computing.

[English] At the Sogeti Engineering World 2011 I presented about OpenCL in the cloud, in Dutch. To increase the relative cool-factor I made sure I had the only Prezi-presentation between the standard sheet-flip presentations. The result you can see below, but can impossibly tell all I shared at the presentation. If you want to know more, just ask or put an comment under this article. I listen to my readers via Twitter.

The presentation has four parts: an introduction, explanation of OpenCL, Mobile devices and data centres. The last two form a segment cloud-computing I want to focus on.

Continue reading “Engineering World 2011: OpenCL in the Cloud”

Khronos OpenCL presentation at SIGGRAPH 2010

Here you find the videos uploaded by Khronos of their presentation about OpenCL. I added the time-line, so you can scroll to the more interesting parts easily. The presentation by Ofer Rosenberg of Intel and Cliff Woolly of NVIDIA were not uploaded (yet). Please note that for non-American people the speech of Affi Munchie is hard to hear; luckily his sheets explain most.

For the first two presentations the sheets can be downloaded from the Khronos-website. The time-line has the sheet-numbers mentioned.

0:00 [sheet 1] Presentation by the president of Khronos and chair of the session: Neill Trevett of NVIDIA.
0:06 [sheet 2] Welcome and a quick overview
1:12 [sheet 3] The prizes for the attendees (not us, online viewers)
1:40 [4] Overview of all members of Khronos. Khronos does not only take care of OpenCL but also the more famous OpenGL and projects like Collada.
2:26 [5] Processor Parallelism. CPUs are getting more parallel and GPUs more programmable. The overlapping area is called Heteregenous Computing and there is where OpenCL pops up.
3:10 [6] OpenCL timeline from version 1.0 to 1.1.
4:44 [7] OpenCL workinggroup with only 30 logos. He mentions missing logos like the one from Apple.
5:18 [8] The Visual Computing Ecosystem, where OpenCL interoperability with other standards are shown. The talk is not complete, so I don;t know if he talks about DirectX.

Continue reading “Khronos OpenCL presentation at SIGGRAPH 2010”

OpenCL 1.1 changes compared to 1.0

This blog-entry is of interest for you, if you don’t want to read the whole new specifications [PDF] for OpenCL 1.1, but just want an overview of the most important changes differences with 1.0.

The news-release sums up the changes for 1.1 like this:

  1. New datatypes including 3-component vectors and additional formats
  2. Handling command from multiple hosts and processing buffers across multiple devices
  3. Operations on regions of a buffer including read, write and copy of 1D, 2D and 3D rectangular regions
  4. Enhanced use of events to drive and control command execution
  5. Additional OpenCL C built-in functions such as integer clamp, shuffle and asynchronous strided copies
  6. Improved OpenGL interoperability through efficient sharing of images and buffers by linking OpenCL and OpenGL events.

Furthermore we can read the update is completely backwards-compatible with version 1.0. The obvious macro‘s CL_VERSION_1_0 and CL_VERSION_1_1 are added to handle the versioning, but what’s more? This blog-post discusses most changes and with some subjective opinions added to it.

Additional Formats

3-component vectors

We only had 2-, 4-, 8 or 16-component vectors, but not 3 which actually was somewhat strange. The functions vload3, vload_half3, vloada_half3 and vstore3, vstore_half3, vstorea_half3 have been added to the family. Watch out, that for the half-functions the offset is calculated somewhat different compared to the even-sized vectors. In version 1.0 you could have chosen for a 4-component vector when using a lot of calculations, or a struct. If you see the new function vec_step below, it seems that it is not more memory-efficient to use this vector instead of a 4-component vector.

RGB with Padding

We have support CL_RGB, CL_RGBa (= RGB with an alpha-channel) and now also RGBx (with padding-channel). The same variants are there for CL_R and CL_RG. Good for graphics-programmers, or for easier reading of 32 bpp BMPs.

Cloud Computing / Multi-user Environments

The support for different hosts gives possibilities for cloud-computing. Side-note: cloud-computing is another word for multi-user environments, with some promotion for big data-centres. All API-functions except clSetKernelArg are thread-safe now; but only when kernels are not shared between hosts; see appendix A.2 for more information. The important part is that you think clearly about how to design your software if you now can assume others can take your resources now too. OpenCL already needed a lot of planning when claiming and releasing resources, so you’re probably already mastering it; now just check more often how much resources are available.

Region-specific Operations

Regions make it possible to split a big buffers to form a queue without having to keeping track of dimensions and offsets during operations, run from host. See clCreateSubBuffer for more information. A real convenience, but watch out when writing to overlapping buffers. The functions clEnqueueCopyBufferRec, clEnqueueReadBufferRect en clEnqueueWriteBufferRect helps synchronising commands to copy, read to or write from a region.

Enhanced Control-room

My favourite description of the host is “the control-room”, since you are not over there on the device but in Houston. The more control and information, the better. The new events are clSetMemObjectDestructorCallback, clCreateUserEvent, clSetUserEventStatus and clSetEventCallback. The first event-listener lets you know when resources a freed, so you can keep track. User-events can be put in the event_wait_list in various functions just like the built-in events; the function will start when all events are CL_COMPLETE. With clSetEventCallback immediate actions-on-events can be programmed; combined with the user-events the programmer got some powerful tools. See the example at clSetUserEventStatus for how to use the user-events.

OpenGL events and Direct3D support

The function clCreateEventFromGLsyncKHR links a CL-event to a GL-event by just giving the name of the OpenGL-event. See gl_sharing for more info.

OpenCL has now support for Direct3D 10, which is great! This might also be a good step to make DirectCompute lighter. See cl_khr_d3d10_sharing for more info. Welcome DirectX-developers! One favour: please be aware that DirectX works on Windows only, not on Apple OSX or iOS, (Embedded) Linux or Symbian. If you use clean calls, it will be more easy to port to other platforms.

Other New Kernel-functions

The following new functions were added to the kernel:

  • get_global_offset: returns the offset of the enqueued kernels.
  • minmag and maxmag: returns the argument with the minimum or maximum distance to zero, falls back to fmin and fmax if distance is equal or an argument is NaN. Example: maxmag(-5, 3) = -5, minmag(-3, 3) = -3.
  • clamp: returns boundary-values if the given number is not between the boundaries.
  • vec_step: returns the number of elements in a scalar or a vector. A scalar returns 1, a vector 2, 4, 8 or 16. If the size is 3, the function returns 4.
  • shuffle and shuffle2: shuffles one or two vectors given another vector with the indices of the new order. Indeed plain old permutations.
  • async_workgroup_strided_copy: buffers between global and local memory on the device. When used correctly, this can overcome some of the hassle when you need to work on global memory objects, but need more speed. Correct usage is described in the reference.

The functions min and max now also work component-wise with a vector as first argument and a scalar as second. Min({2, 4, 6, 8}, 5) will give {2, 4, 5, 5}.


While the many revisions of OpenCL 1.0 were really minor and not a lot attention was paid to them, 1.1 is a big step forward. If you see what has been done to multi-user environments, NVidia and AMD have a lot of work to do with their drivers.

You can read in revision 33 there has been some heated discussion and there was pressure on the decision:

>>Should this extension be KHR or EXT?
PROPOSED: KHR. If this extension is to be approved by Khronos then it should be KHR, otherwise EXT. Not all platforms can support this extension, but that is also true of OpenGL interop.

The part “not all platforms” is very politically written down, since exactly one platform supports this specific extension. I have seen too many of these pressured discussions and I hope Khronos is stronger than i.e. ISO and OpenCL will remain as open as OpenGL.

I’m very happy with the new version, since there is more control with loads of extra events, now multiple hosts are possible, and the forgotten 3-component vector was added. Now let me know in the comments what you think of the new version.

By the way, not all is new. Deprecated are clSetCommandQueueProperty and the __ROUNDING_MODE__ macro.

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!