Today is a big day for AMD as they, along with four other major players in the world of processors and SoCs, announced the formation of the HSA Foundation. The HSA Foundation is a non-profit consortium created to define and promote an open approach to heterogeneous computing. The primary goal is to make it easier for software developers to write and program for the parallel power of GPUs. This encompasses both integrated and discrete of which the HSA (heterogeneous systems architecture) Foundation wants to enable users to take full advantage of all the processing resources available to them.
On stage at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit in Bellevue, WA, AMD announced the formation of the consortium in partnership with ARM, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek, and Texas Instruments; some of the biggest names in computing.
The companies will work together to drive a single architecture specification and simplify the programming model to help software developers take greater advantage of the capabilities found in modern central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs), and unlock the performance and power efficiency of the parallel computing engines found in heterogeneous processors.
There are a lot of implications in this simple statement and there are many questions that are left open ended to which we hope to get answered this week while at AFDS. The idea of a "single architecture specification" set a lot of things in motion and makes us question the direction of both AMD and the traditionally ARM-based companies of the HSA Foundation will be moving in. AMD has had the APU, and the eventual complete fusion of the CPU and GPU, on its roadmap for quite a few years and has publicly stated that in 2014 they will have their first fully HSA-capable part. We are still assuming that this is an x86 + Radeon based part, but that may or may not be the long term goal; ideas of ARM-based AMD processors with Radeon graphics technology AND of Radeon based ARM-processors built by other companies still swirl amongst the show. There are even rumors of Frankenstein-like combinations of x86 and ARM based products for niche applications.
Looks like there is room for a few more founding partners…
Obviously ARM and others have their own graphics IP (ARM has Mali, Imagination Technology has Power VR) and those GPUs can be used for parallel processing in much the same way that we think of GPU processing on discrete GPUs and APUs today. ARM processor designers are well aware of the power and efficiency benefits of utilizing all of the available transistors and processing power correctly and the emphasis on an HSA-style system design makes a lot of sense moving forward.
My main question for the HSA Foundation is its goals: obviously they want to promote the simplistic approach for programmers, but what does that actually translate to on the hardware side? It is possible that both x86 and ARM-based ISAs can continue to exist with libraries and compilers built to correctly handle applications for each architecture, but that would seem to me to be against the goals of such a partnership of technology leaders.
In a meeting with AMD personnel, the most powerful and inspiring idea from the HSA Foundation is summed up with this:
"This is bigger than AMD. This is bigger than the PC ecosystem."
The end game is to make sure that all software developers can EASILY take advantage of both traditional and parallel processing cores without ever having to know what is going on under the hood. AMD and the other HSA Foundation members continue to tell us that this optimization can be completely ISA-agnostic – though the technical blockages for that to take place are severe.
AMD will benefit from the success of the HSA Foundation by finally getting more partners involved in promoting the idea of heterogeneous computing, and powerful ones at that. ARM is the biggest player in the low power processor market responsible for the Cortex and Mali architectures found in the vast majority of mobile processors. As those partners trumpet the same cause as AMD, more software will be developed to take advantage of parallel computing and AMD believes their GPU architecture gives them a definite performance advantage once that takes hold.
What I find most interesting is the unknown – how will this affect the roadmaps for all the hardware companies involved? Are we going to see the AMD APU roadmap shift to an ARM-IP system? Will we see companies like Texas Instruments fully integrate the OMAP and Power VR cores into a single memory space (or ARM with Cortex and Mali)? Will we eventually see NVIDIA jump onboard and lend their weight towards true heterogenous computing?
We have much more the learn about the HSA Foundation and its direction for the industry but we can easily say that this is probably the most important processor company collaboration announcement in many years – and it does so without the 800 pound gorilla that is Intel in attendance. By going after the ARM-based markets where Intel is already struggling to compete in, AMD can hope to create a foothold with technological and partnership advantages and return to a seat of prominence. This harkens back to the late 1990s when AMD famously put together the "virtual gorilla" with many partners to take on Intel.
AMD, ARM, Imagination, MediaTek and Texas Instruments Unleash the Next Era of Computing Innovation
–Technology Leaders Establish the HSA Foundation to Create a Unified, Open Industry Standard Architecture for Heterogeneous Processing; Heterogeneous Processors, Which Combine Two or More Different Types of Processors into a Single Chip, Accounted for Nearly Half of All Microprocessor Revenue in 2011 –
BELLEVUE, WASH. – June 12, 2012 – Today at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit (AFDS), global technology leaders came together to announce the formation of the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation The HSA Foundation is a non-profit consortium established to define and promote an open, standards-based approach to heterogeneous computing that will provide a common hardware specification and broad support ecosystem to make it easier for software developers to deliver innovative applications that can take greater advantage of today’s modern processors.
AMD (NYSE: AMD), ARM, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek Inc., and Texas Instruments (TI) (NYSE: TXN) are the initial founding members of the HSA Foundation. The companies will work together to drive a single architecture specification and simplify the programming model to help software developers take greater advantage of the capabilities found in modern central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs), and unlock the performance and power efficiency of the parallel computing engines found in heterogeneous processors.
By standardizing the heterogeneous programming model, developers can more easily and cost-effectively develop new software tailored to take advantage of the expanding $55.5B heterogeneous (also known as “hybrid”) processor market1. The HSA Foundation will help usher in the next era of software innovation, from enabling unprecedented user experiences to improving cloud-based data management, streaming, and security.
“HSA moves the industry beyond the constraints of the legacy system architecture of the past 25-plus years that is now stifling software innovations,” said Phil Rogers, HSA Foundation President and AMD Corporate Fellow. “By aiming HSA squarely at the needs of the
software developer, we have designed a common hardware platform for high performance, energy efficient solutions. HSA is unlocking a new realm of possibilities across PCs, smartphones, tablets and ultrathin notebooks, as well as the innovative supercomputers and cloud services that define the modern computing experience.”
As an independent consortium, the HSA Foundation is open to any and all computing industry professionals with an interest in driving the next era in computing performance and energy efficiency. The HSA Foundation welcomes forward-thinking semiconductor companies, platform and OS vendors, device manufacturers, independent software vendors, academia and open source developers. Members of the HSA Foundation plan to deliver robust development solutions for heterogeneous compute to drive innovative content and applications with developer tools, software developer kits (SDKs), libraries, documentation, training, support and more.
“One year ago, AMD boldly announced a roadmap for making HSA a reality, starting with combining the CPU and GPU as a unified processing engine to create an architecture that would greatly simplify the programming of heterogeneous platforms,” said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president of Heterogeneous Applications and Developer Solutions for AMD. “Today, we are continuing our heterogeneous computing leadership and dedication to driving broad industry adoption by making the HSA architecture an open standard.”
“We are all demanding more from the technology that connects us to our digital worlds. Graphical interfaces are critical to the user experience but can have a power impact. With open standards, developers can now provide outstanding graphics without compromising power-efficiency," said Jem Davies, ARM Fellow and vice president of Technology, Media Processor Division, ARM. "ARM welcomes the formation of the HSA Foundation and is pleased to be one of the founding members. ARM’s extensive experience with heterogeneous systems brings a unique leadership perspective to developing the right compute processor for the right tasks based on the latest ARM technology, such as ARM® Mali™ GPUs and Cortex™ processors."
“Imagination is delighted to be one of the founders of the HSA Foundation. Our long-held view is that heterogeneous processing architectures are fundamental to scalability, flexibility and performance for future SoC (Systems-on-Chip) design,” said Tony King-Smith, vice president of Marketing, Imagination Technologies. “We believe that the combination of CPUs with increasingly powerful on-chip GPUs, using industry standard APIs such as OpenCL™, Renderscript Compute, and Direct Compute, is the vital first step along this path. The HSA APIs and tools complement these higher level APIs to help SoC systems engineers create future generation computing platforms. As applications developers embrace the benefits of embracing
such architectures, the HSA Foundation will provide a valuable cross-platform, cross-OS means of ensuring maximum heterogeneous application portability and optimization. We look forward to working closely with all of the founders and other members of the HSA Foundation to deliver this key open standard that is set to fuel the future of mass market high performance computing.”
“MediaTek is excited about the potential of heterogeneous computing in enabling innovative mobile applications. We believe that an open standard is key to bringing the technology to the mainstream smartphone market, said Chien-Ping Lu, senior director, Corporate Technology Office, MediaTek. “As a chipset and platform supplier with a strong focus on mainstream smartphones, we are excited to join AMD, our IP partners, Imagination, ARM, TI and other industry leaders to promote HSA as the open standard for heterogeneous computing.”
“TI’s expertise in delivering low-power, high-performance experiences via the smart, multicore architecture of our OMAP™ platform undoubtedly makes our position as a founding member of the HSA Foundation a natural fit,” said Matthew Locke, director, Linux Development Center, TI. “We look forward to working with other leaders in the industry to drive adoption of heterogeneous computing as a standard platform across embedded, mobile, personal and cloud computing.”
In addition to the founding members, contributor and supporting-level members will assist with research, development, production, manufacture, use, and the sale of HSA and heterogeneous computing software. For more information about the HSA Foundation’s membership levels and benefits or to join the organization, please go to www.hsafoundation.com.
• For additional information about HSA and the HSA Foundation visit the HSA Foundation website at www.hsafoundation.com.
• Follow the HSA Foundation on Twitter: @HSAFoundation.
• “Like” the HSA Foundation on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HSAFoundation.
• View Phil Rogers’ AFDS keynote presentation via AFDS-D. Register here.
About Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA)
Developers will benefit from the open standard programming of HSA for both the CPU and GPU, which allows the two processors to work cooperatively and directly in system
memory. Additionally, HSA provides a single architecture across multiple operating systems and hardware designs. By maximizing the full compute capabilities of systems with both CPUs and GPUs, users can see performance and energy efficiency boosts across a variety of applications.
About the HSA Foundation
The HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) Foundation is a not-for-profit consortium for SoC IP vendors, OEMs, academia, SoC vendors, OSVs and ISVs whose goal is to make it easy to program for parallel computing. HSA members are building a heterogeneous compute ecosystem, rooted in industry standards, for combining scalar processing on the CPU with parallel processing on the GPU while enabling high bandwidth access to memory and high application performance at low power consumption. HSA defines interfaces for parallel computation utilizing CPU, GPU and other programmable and fixed function devices, and support for a diverse set of high-level programing languages, thereby creating the next foundation in general purpose computing.
AMD (NYSE: AMD) is a semiconductor design innovator leading the next era of vivid digital experiences with its groundbreaking AMD Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) that power a wide range of computing devices. AMD’s server computing products are focused on driving industry-leading Cloud computing and virtualization environments. AMD’s superior graphics technologies are found in a variety of solutions ranging from game consoles, PCs to supercomputers. For more information, visit http://www.amd.com.