GDC 14: WebCL 1.0 Specification is Released by Khronos

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:03 AM |
Tagged: WebCL, gdc 14, GDC

The Khronos Group has just ratified the standard for WebCL 1.0. The API is expected to provide a massive performance boost to web applications which are dominated by expensive functions which can be offloaded to parallel processors, such as GPUs and multi-core CPUs. Its definition also allows WebCL to communicate and share buffers between it and WebGL with an extension.

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Frequent readers of the site might remember that I have a particular interest in WebCL. Based on OpenCL, it allows web apps to obtain a list of every available compute device and target it for workloads. I have personally executed tasks on an NVIDIA GeForce 670 discrete GPU and other jobs on my Intel HD 4000 iGPU, at the same time, using the WebCL prototype from Tomi Aarnio of Nokia Research. The same is true for users with multiple discrete GPUs installed in their system (even if they are not compatible with Crossfire, SLi, or are from different vendors altogether). This could be very useful for physics, AI, lighting, and other game middleware packages.

Still, browser adoption might be rocky for quite some time. Google, Mozilla, and Opera Software were each involved in the working draft. This leaves both Apple and Microsoft notably absent. Even then, I am not sure how much interest exists within Google, Mozilla, and Opera to take it from a specification to a working feature in their browsers. Some individuals have expressed more faith in WebGL compute shaders than WebCL.

Of course, that can change with just a single "killer app", library, or middleware.

I do expect some resistance from the platform holders, however. Even Google has been pushing back on OpenCL support in Android, in favor of their "Renderscript" abstraction. The performance of a graphics processor is also significant leverage for a native app. There is little, otherwise, that cannot be accomplished with Web standards except a web browser itself (and there is even some non-serious projects for that). If Microsoft can support WebGL, however, there is always hope.

The specification is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos
March 19, 2014 | 09:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"I have personally executed tasks on an NVIDIA GeForce 670 discrete GPU and other jobs on my Intel HD 4000 iGPU, at the same time, using the WebCL prototype from Tomi Aarnio of Nokia"

Why have Intel, AMD, and Nvidia have not had graphics drivers that can do this since the first integrated graphics was introduced should be an indicator of why the lack of competition hurts the consumer. And M$, instead of breaking a UI that did not need to be fixed, maybe more time should have been spent making windows have the built in ability to do this, or at least M$ could have withheld offical M$ windows OS certification on any CPU with an integrated GPU that did not play friendly with with descrete GPUs and have the ability to at least use the integrated GPU for extra compute loads while the dedicated GPU did graphics! I realise that getting integrated graphics and and descrete graphics working togather for gaming is a difficult task, beacuse of the lantency issues unique to gaming, but for graphics, non gaming, rendering or other graphics usage this should have been par for the course a long time ago! And to think that all of the real innovation like this is happening beacuse of the mobile market and its healthy competition. Imagination Technologies has just introduced a hardware Ray tracing engine into its mobile GPUs. I hope that some of these mobile GPU innovations trickle UP to the desktop GPU SKUs in the future. HSA is not the sole domain of AMD, and the acronym and definition has been around long before AMD's marketing department starting throwing the HSA term around. HSA means the ALL the compute ability of the CPU and the GPU, and other can be utilized for more that what these devices were orginally intended for in computiting workloads.

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