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GPU compiler could "turn desktops into supercomputers"

Chips

By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 18 May 2010 at 10:45

A software team at North Carolina State University claims it could turn a desktop PC into a supercomputer by harnessing the power of its graphics processing unit (GPU).

An average CPU boasts between 20-60 gigaflops of computing power, or 20 to 60 billion operations per second, but that pales compared to some modern GPUs that can run 1 teraflop (a thousand billion operations per second).

The North Carolina researchers have written a software compiler that they say can fully exploit the power of the GPU.

“We have developed a software tool that takes computer program A and translates it into computer program B – which ultimately does the same thing that program A does, but does it more efficiently on a GPU,” said Dr Huiyang Zhou, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina.

The researchers found that programs designed for conventional processors ran 30% faster using the compiler and a GPU, and that could be the tip of the iceberg. “Tapping into your GPU can turn your personal computer into a supercomputer,” Zhou claimed.

According to the programmers, the main problem for GPU computation is that the architecture of the GPU is designed to process graphics and focuses on turning data into millions of pixels on a screen, with those operations taking place in isolation from each other.

Zhou says his team's compiler effectively translates generic software into a program that runs efficiently on this architecture.

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User comments

Not holding my breath

So the GPU has 20x power and if you recompile your code it runs 30% faster!
GPU's have multiple parallel cores; till we can work out how to do parallel processing, we'll never leverage the true power.

By milliganp on 18 May 2010

Erroneous statement

The sentence "... programs designed for conventional processors ran 30% faster using the compiler and a GPU ..." seems erroneous.

The report on New Caroline State U website says this instead: "... programs translated by their compiler software ran approximately 30 percent more quickly than those optimized by the GPU developers ... up to 128 times speedups over the naive versions" http://news.ncsu.edu/releases/wmszhoucompiler/

So yes, it is fast.

By mnj_lim on 18 May 2010

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