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A Giant Leap Forward for HSA

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As the great Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu once observed, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. This quote is often used to remind us that a task that appears daunting at first, can be accomplished by persistent work toward the goal.

In June of 2012, leading technology companies and universities took this to heart when they stepped forward with AMD to form the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation. Today the journey is not over, but the Foundation has certainly reached an important milestone: the release of the HSA 1.0 specifications.

So, while the membership of the Foundation takes a moment to savor this important accomplishment before moving on to the next task ahead, what does this mean to the rest of us?

First, let’s briefly summarize why the Foundation came to be in the first place. At its most expansive and visionary, the goal of the HSA Foundation is to change the formula for computing forever. In more specific terms, as explained here in a recent EE Times article, the members joined together to drive the creation of a new architecture that advances and promotes heterogeneous systems, and to help bring HSA-enabled platforms and software solutions to market.

Is it coming to fruition? You better believe it.

Let’s review what is now available on The newly-approved specification comprises the key elements which improve the programmability of heterogeneous processors, the portability of programming code and interoperability across different vendor devices.

These include:

  • The HSA System Architecture Specification that defines how the hardware operates;
  • The HSA Programmers Reference Manual (PRM), that targets the software ecosystem, tool and compiler developers;
  • The HSA Runtime Specification that defines how applications interact with HSA platforms.

You can program to the HSA specification in higher level languages already, the C++ compiler is available today, as are the Python compiler and the OpenCL™ 2.0 stack. In addition to the programmer focused elements above, AMD is the first member to be delivering the hardware. “Kaveri-based” HSA development platforms are available today and we will deliver “Carrizo” by mid-year.  The HSA Conformance tests are under development by the HSA Foundation now, and we expect “Carrizo” to become the first product in the world that can claim compliance with the specification!

So perhaps in conclusion, we should look to another insightful philosopher, from Greece this time, whose words can serve as a well-deserved pat on the back for the Foundation and its members who took that first step.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Manju Hegde, corporate vice president at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

*Originally Posted by gsilcott in AMD on Mar 18, 2015 11:13:28 AM

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