I missed you so much. Yes, you. No, not you. You. I couldn't blog for a while and I ask you (no, not you) what's the point of living if one can't blog? Sure, there's the world outside of computers, but it's a scary place filled with people that, god forbid, might try interacting with you. Who needs that? It turns out that I do. I've spent the last week in Portland on the OpenCL working group meeting which was a part of the Khronos F2F.
For those who don't know (oh, you poor souls) OpenCL is what could be described as "the shit". That's the official spelling but substituting the word "the" for "da" is considered perfectly legal. Longer description includes the expansion of the term OpenCL to "Open Computing Language" with an accompanying wikipedia entry. OpenCL has all the ingredients, including the word "Open" right in the name, to make it one of the most important technologies of the coming years.
OpenCL allows us to tap into the tremendous power of modern GPUs. Not only that but also one can use OpenCL with accelerators (like the physics chips or Cell SPU's) and CPUs. On top of that hardware OpenCL provides both task-based and data-based parallelism making it a fascinating options for those who want to accelerate their code. For example if you have a canvas (Qt graphicsview) and you spend a lot of time doing collision detection, or if you have image manipulation application (Krita) and you spend a lot of time in effects and general image manipulation, or if you have a scientific chemistry application with an equation solver (Kalzium) and want to make it all faster, or if you have wonky hair and like to dance polka... OK, the last one is a little a fuzzy but you get the point.
Make no mistake, OpenCL is little bit more complicated than just "write your algorithm in C". Albeit well hidden, the graphics pipeline is still at the forefront of the design, so there are some limitations (remember that for a number of really good and few inconvenient reasons GPUs do their own memory management so you can not just move data structures between main and graphics memory). It's one of the reasons that you won't see a GCC based OpenCL implementation any time soon. OpenCL requires run time execution, it allows sharing of buffers with OpenGL (e.g. OpenCL image data type can be constructed from GL textures or renderbuffers) and it forces code generation to a number of different targets (GPUs, CPUs, accelerators). All those things need to be integrated. For sharing of buffers between OpenGL and OpenCL the two APIs need to go through some kind of a common framework - be it a real library or some utility code that exposes addresses and their meaning to both OpenGL and OpenCL implementations.
Fortunately we already have that layer. Gallium3D maps perfectly to the buffer and command management in OpenCL. Which shouldn't be surprising given that they both care about the graphics pipeline. So all we need is a new state tracker with some compiler framework integrated to parse and code generate from the OpenCL C language. LLVM is the obvious choice here because unlike GCC, LLVM has libraries that we can use for both (to be more specific it's Clang and LLVM). So yes, we started on an OpenCL state tracker, but of course we are far, far away from actual conformance. Being part of a large company means that we have to go through extensive legal reviews before releasing something in the open so right now we're patiently waiting.
My hope is that once the state tracker is public the work will continue at a lot faster pace. I'd love to see our implementation pass conformance with at least one GPU driver by summer (which is /hard/ but definitely not impossible).