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Heterogeneous Processing Specification Ready For Launch

26 February 2015

The HSA Foundation, an industry body formed in 2012 to create standards for heterogeneous computing, is about to launch its first major specification for parallel computing. The HSA 1.0 specification is due to launch March 16.

The foundation was initiated by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and launched in June 2012 with AMD, ARM, Imagination, MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung and Texas Instruments as founding members. The initiative is CPU-, GPU- and DSP-agnostic and aims to develop standards that will let multiple architectures co-operate in silicon. The initials in the foundation's name stand for Heterogeneous Systems Architecture.

The group now includes 60 major semiconductor and IP vendors, OEMs, universities, software developers and government agencies among its membership and enjoys broad support from key processor developers.

A notable absentee from discussions around the heterogeneous computing topic has been Intel Corp., the world's largest leading semiconductor company and leading microprocessor vendor.

Nonetheless, the HSA Foundation is aiming at supporting heterogeneous computing at all levels from mobile devices and tablet computers up to high-performance computing (HPC) servers.

HSA has already announced developments, including HSAIL, the HSA intermediate language, a virtual instruction set architecture for parallel processing. The HSA 1.0 will define interfaces for parallel computation using CPU, GPU and other programmable and fixed-function devices. Some of the developments likely to be set out in HSA 1.0 will include: a method or methods of unified memory addressing across all processors with cache coherency; high-level language support for computing on GPUs; and how pre-emption and context switching are handled.

The specification is set to launch March 16 at an event at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, Calif. The speakers' list for the event includes Phil Rogers, corporate fellow at AMD and president of the HSA Foundation, and Jem Davies, vice president of technology at ARM. Speakers from Imagination, MediaTek and Qualcomm are also expected to present.

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