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Rivals AMD and ARM unite, summon others to become 'heterogeneous'
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Old 13th June 2012, 08:27   #1
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Default Rivals AMD and ARM unite, summon others to become 'heterogeneous'

Rumors of a hook-up between AMD and ARM have been circulating ever since someone coined the phrase "the enemy of Intel is my friend." As of today, however, that alliance is real and cemented in the form of the HSA Foundation -- a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the dark arts of Heterogeneous System Architecture. It's a relatively old concept in computing, but the Foundation's founding partners (AMD, ARM, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek and Texas Instruments) all stand to gain from its wider adoption. How come? Because it involves boosting a chip's performance by making it use its various components as co-processors, rather than treating them as specialized units that can never help each other out.

In other words, while Intel pursues Moore's Law and packs ever-more sophisticated transistors into its CPUs, AMD, ARM and the other HSA pals want to achieve similar or better results through parallel computing. In most cases, that'll mean using the graphics processor on a chip not only for visuals and gaming, but also for general tasks and apps. This can already be achieved using a programming language called OpenCL, but AMD believes it's too tricky to code and is putting mainstream developers off. Equally, NVIDIA has long had its own language for the same purpose, called CUDA, but it's proprietary. Whatever niche is left in the middle, the HSA Foundation hopes to fill it with an easier and more open standard that is not only cross-OS but also transcends the PC / mobile divide. If it works, it'll give us a noticeable surge in computational power in everyday apps by 2014. If it fails, these new-found friends can go back to the less awkward custom of ignoring each other.
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