This is a good news, Apple is communicating about the future Mac Pro raw processing power using OpenCL technology, a GPGPU technology that Apple created and then gave to Khronos Group. It’s a good step forward.
The step backwartd is that the 2008 Mac Pro supports 2 AMD Radeon 7990, offering them 16Tflops of raw power, more than 2X the power of the future Mac Pro. And this is deceptive, as usually with Apple announcement…
Adapteva presented a KickStarter project, Parallela, a $99 boards that promise super-computing for any one, with highly parallel RISC engine. Designed to be programmed using OpenCL drivers and compilers, it’s an alternative to other OpenCL devices, including GPU, IBM Cell, etc.
This project is interesting at first, but I wonder who could be interested by this projet, even if you limit the budget at $99.
The Parallela board promised 32Gflops peak, for approximately 5W (maybe more on some cases), while a Quad-core PC with n OpenCL GPU will offers you 4000 Gflops (125X) for 500W (100X). A PC is easily 25% more efficient with a single GPGPU, and could offers as much as 2X more power efficiency (Gflops/Watt) with 3 or 4 GPU!
A $1000 PC configuration with an high-end GPU will cost you 10X the price of the Parallela boards, while delivering up to 125X the performance-level: it’s 12X more effective on Gflops/$!
And it get worse if you consider having an high-end PC with 3 or 4 GPU!
Alternative at $99 price point
You might consider to invest $99 in an AMD Radeon HD 7750, that support OpenCL (and some other tools), and offers at leat 820 Gflops SP (25X faster) while adding up to 70W power-consumption.
That’s 25X more Gflops / $ invested, and it’s 3X more power-efficient if you already own a PC with an available slot! Ouch!
Development tools are available for Windows and Linux too, including Open-Source dev tools. Moreover your development will run as is on any PC or Mac having an OpenCL-enabled graphic card or CPU driver!
Parallela, the supercomputing for who?!?
The Adapteva chips are interesting if you plan to create embedded high-performance devices, but in no case Parallela could be considered a SuperComputer, neither in performance-level, in Gflops/Watt or in GFlops/$ invested.
Still it’s an interesting project, because new players in the parallel-computing fields may be game changers in the long-run. The Epiphany-IV processor for example is far more interesting than the Epiphany-III proposed for Parallela, with 3X more performance on the same power enveloppe, and thus more power-efficient than a GPGPU solution.
Why not launching Parallela with Epiphany-IV directly?!?
nVidia have been the first major GPU designer to jump into the OpenCL wagon, a project initiated by Apple to enable cross-platform GPGPU development that is OS and vendor-agnostic, then maintained by the Khronos Group.
Today AMD and Intel are big players for OpenCL support, for both their CPU and GPU, while the new AMD Radeon GCN architecture is clearly performance leader on OpenCL when you use complex algorithms, while new nVidia Kepler architecture lag far behind the old Fermi architecture! Intel 2013 CPU+GPU architecture, Haswell, is expected to beat entry-level Kepler GT640 on any usage (Intel GT3 will beat it, trust me!).
nVidia have an hard time, with uneffective and deceptive Kepler architecture that is slower than AMD new architecture for both 3D and GPGPU, and could not even compete with 2010 nVidia architecture for GPGPU, on an open playfield that is OpenCL.
nVidia that was OpenCL leader is actually trying everything it could to stop supporting it, including removing comments or documentation in EXISTING OpenCL examples, not updating them, removing them from the SDK, etc.
Srdja worked hard in the last 3 years to develop an OpenCL Chess Engine, created the first, and AFAIK actually the only one. As these efforts are on an Open-Source Project, on it’s spare time, and not a commercial project, he needs community support to continue development, and in this case, to buy a Radeon HD 7970 to replace the HD 7750 he invested on early this year.
With my desktop ring being upgraded, adding a HD7750 to the GTX260, I did some OpenCL LuxMark2 benchmark. It’s incredibly impressive on this kind of real-world useful GPGPU development. This is the SALA scene results, on GPU-only
HD5850M 1GB GDDR5: 115 points
HD6750M 1GB GDDR5: 71 points
GTX260 896MB GDDR5: 109 points
HD7750 1GB GDDR5: 321 points
It’s clearly ahead of the pack, and to be 3X faster than a GTX260 is incredible, the GTX260 delivers 875 GFlops and 112GB/s bandwidth, where the HD7750 delivers only 820Gflops and 72GB/s bandwidth. GCN is an incredible GPGPU architecture, and I wonder what is possible to do with a HD7970!