OpenCL is a framework for parallel programming that enables the same programs to run across different devices and processors, including CPUs and GPUs, with support for task and data parallelism. The standard is being nurtured by the Khronos Group, a non-profit consortium of media technology companies, which is also the driving force behind the OpenGL graphics API.
Now Intel has released a free alpha version of its OpenCL SDK, which so far just runs on the CPU, but which will give you a chance to experiment with it and offer your feedback. To use it, you’ll need Windows 7 or Windows Vista, and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008. Because the SDK includes optimisations that use Intel Streaming SIMD Extensions 4.1 (Intel SSE 4.1), you’ll need a compatible processor too, and there’s a full list in the supporting documentation.
Intel says the SDK includes a highly scalable threading system for optimal multicore performance (based on Intel Threading Building Blocks), and it can be integrated with Intel VTune Performance Analyzer and Intel GPA Task Analyzer to help optimise performance. This release passes 95% of the Khronos OpenCL conformance tests, so it’s nearly finished.
Have you tried OpenCL already, using the Intel SDK or on another platform? What do you think?