For many years, the x86 and ARM processor architectures have been the masters of the electronics industry, but a totally new architecture might appear soon.
Like many IT press releases, the one issued jointly by AMD
, Texas Instruments
and Imagination Technologies
during AFDS (AMD Fusion Developer Summit) used a lot of technical jargon, as if deliberately trying to be vague.
There isn't much room for interpretation though, even after that. Not when all the relevant names on the microprocessor market, minus Intel, come together.
The five IT players have created the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation, meant to “drive a single architecture specification and simplify the programming model.”
The press release emphasizes “research, development, production, manufacture, use, and the sale of HSA and heterogeneous computing software.” This would suggest that they will try to make their software cross-platform compatible.
Sure enough, they will start off with enabling OpenCL, Renderscript Compute and Direct Compute on all their chips. They will also provide independent software vendors with tools that exploit these standards.
But there is another way to interpret the fact that HSA will create and develop an open, standards-based approach to heterogeneous computing. It might be wishful thinking, but not completely out of the realm of probability.
Basically, a new processor architecture could appear, one that can be used in everything from PCs, smartphones, tablets, notebooks and even supercomputers and the cloud.
Currently, “hybrid CPU” means a processing unit with integrated graphics processor (IGP). AMD's APUs (accelerated processing unit) are one example, and pretty much every one of the other founding HSA companies have SoCs
with IGPs too.
If a new architecture really appears, software makers will be able to come up with new applications. In fact, whatever programs they create will work across all the device types mentioned above.
That is a major step forward from today, when programmers still have to make custom versions of their apps if they want more than one platform to support them. This, of course, comes in addition to the new levels of energy efficiency and performance that true heterogeneous platforms will permit.
We don't think the HSA non-profit foundation will fail to draw in more members, not in this context. Thus, we'll probably see many platform and OS vendors, independent software vendors, semiconductor companies, device manufacturers, academia and open source developers chipping in.
“HSA moves the industry beyond the constraints of the legacy system architecture of the past 25-plus years that is now stifling software innovations,” said Phil Rogers, HSA Foundation president and AMD corporate fellow.
“By aiming HSA squarely at the needs of the software developer, we have designed a common hardware platform for high performance, energy efficient solutions. HSA is unlocking a new realm of possibilities across PCs, smartphones, tablets and ultrathin notebooks, as well as the innovative supercomputers and cloud services that define the modern computing experience.”
New processor architectures appear quite rarely. The only truly new one to emerge in the past few decades is UPU
. We can only hope this latest alliance will lead to another, eventually.