Chip Wars: NVIDIA and ATI spar over OpenCL GPU support

Posted by Aharon Etengoff

San Francisco (CA) - NVIDIA has accused ATI of failing to support direct GPU computing. ATI - which categorically rejected the claim - told TG Daily that it provided developers with "open access" to both the CPU and GPU.

The latest round between the rival industry heavyweights began after AMD introduced a free OpenCL for CPU download as part of its ATI Stream SDK v2.0 Beta Program. According to AMD, the beta is expected to help programmers "easily develop" parallel software programs by allowing them to "take further advantage" of multi-core x86 CPUs.

AMD also noted it was the "first" to deliver a beta release of an OpenCL software development platform for x86-based CPUs.

AMD OpenCL

"AMD's OpenCL for CPU beta is a key component of the complete OpenCL development platform included in the next ATI Stream software development kit (SDK), which is expected later in 2009," the company explained in a statement. "[We are] uniquely positioned to deliver on the potential of OpenCL as the only provider in the industry that designs and delivers both high-performance CPU and GPU technologies. By supporting OpenCL, ATI Stream technology lets developers divide software workloads between different hardware elements, such as the CPU and GPU, to efficiently execute their application."

NVIDIA, however, responded to AMD's press release by alleging that the SDK effectively "bound" GPU computing developers to the CPU.

NVIDIA OpenCL

"NVIDIA continues to directly support GPU computing developers with OpenCL, C and DirectCompute while ATI no longer provides any direct GPU Computing support by their removal of Brook+ from their 2.0 beta SDK," said Sanford Russell, General Manager, GPU Computing at NVIDIA. "This leaves GPU Computing developers on AMD bound to the CPU. NVIDIA [has] increased its support for the OpenCL development community by introducing at Siggraph, the industry's 1st OpenCL visual profiler and OpenCL best practices guide."

Unsurprisingly, AMD disputed Russell's charges of GPU abandonment.

"NVIDIA would like you to believe that their GPUs are taking over general purpose computing, when the fact remains that the CPU will remain a vital element in systems," AMD spokesperson Gary Silcott told TG Daily. "AMD is providing open access to BOTH, not trying to hoodwink the industry into believing one architecture (much less one brand) or the other will dominate the processing inside modern computing systems."

Khronos Group OpenCL

Silcott explained that AMD's SDK supports OpenCL for GPU + CPU via a single environment.

"We are the only company in the industry that can claim that. The beta for the CPU portion is available for download now and the unified SDK beta, that includes OpenCL GPU support, will be available soon. Select AMD partners already have access to both," added Silcott.

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