Xilinx Joins OpenCL Effort as Part of All Programmable Abstractions Initiative

OpenCL has found more support among Altera partners, but has needed another major FPGA vendor to support this open language, originally developed by Apple Inc. In mid-September, Xilinx announced it would work with partners MathWorks and National Instruments on OpenCL, as part of a new All Programmable Abstractions initiative.

Critics might see Xilinx as adding a special superfluous marketing spin to the commitment to OpenCL. For the time being, APA does seem to be an ill-defined paper initiative. But the goal of Xilinx and its two major development partners is admirable.

The APA initiative wants to place C, C++, System C, and the new OpenCL in a common framework to encourage high-level language programming of FPGAs. This could not happen too soon. For one thing, Xilinx's chief competitor Altera has had an OpenCL development program under way for close to two years. More important, the OpenCL development coincides with similar projects inside Intel Corp., AMD Inc., Broadcom Corp., and other companies heavily dependent on processor architectures.

Current trends in FPGA use suggest that most midrange and larger FPGAs will rely at least on a single microprocessor core, if not multiple cores — either homogenous multiprocessing cores or heterogeneous cores reliant on dissimilar threads and programming models. The FPGA designer will have to be as conversant in C derivatives as the user of standard integer microprocessors.

Xilinx is not putting a timeline on its work with partners on APA, and frankly, it would be unlikely to see any C++ or System C projects emerge before late 2014. This could push an OpenCL program into 2015 or later. But this nascent effort is worth a thumbs-up from Xilinx, if only in theory for now. It won't be long before every FPGA is developed in C — either existing versions or the new OpenCL.

This blog was originally posted to EDN.

5 comments on “Xilinx Joins OpenCL Effort as Part of All Programmable Abstractions Initiative

  1. _hm
    September 28, 2013

    To begin, Xilinx has shown inclination and future interest in OpenCL. Give some time to Xilinx and they will catch up to your expectation. They need dedicated resources for this. It is very difficulat to doubt from the begining.


  2. ahdand
    September 29, 2013

    @_hm: Yes only time will decide the fate but we should encourage if it has any positive signs. Then only it can grow.  

  3. _hm
    September 29, 2013

    Is not joining forum by such big organization postive sign?

  4. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    September 29, 2013

    I noticed on a Xilinx forum that there were some users asking when and whether xilinx will support OpenCL as Altera does. It seems that these users want considerable commitment. It will be interesting to see if xilnx comes through.

  5. ahdand
    September 30, 2013

    @Hailey: I feel there is the every possibility that xlinx will come through. There maybe some hiccups for them in the run but they can make it

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