Skip to main content

AMD, ARM, TI form HSA Foundation to promote heterogeneous computing

Advanced Micro Devices, ARM and several other leading semiconductor firms on Tuesday announced the formation of the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation, a new non-profit consortium that seeks to "define and promote an open, standards-based approach to heterogeneous computing."

The announcement at AMD's Fusion Developer Summit also named Imagination Technologies, MediaTek and Texas Instruments as founding members of the HSA Foundation. The foundation's push for a single, industry-standard architecture is intended to make working with different hardware platforms simpler for software developers, the companies said.

"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, an AMD corporate fellow who will serve as the HSA Foundation's president. "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," Rogers added.

Practically speaking, the HSA Foundation intends to start producing and offering developer tools, software developer kits (SDKs), libraries, documentation, training and support to the software dev community as soon as possible, the founders said. The foundation itself is "open to any and all computing industry professionals with an interest in driving the next era in computing performance and energy efficiency," they added.

Recruitment will focus on "forward-thinking semiconductor companies, platform and OS vendors, device manufacturers, independent software vendors, academia and open source developers."

The formation of the HSA Foundation also brings AMD and ARM into closer collaboration. Though AMD, like its larger rival Intel, is mainly known for making x86-based CPUs that directly or indirectly compete with chips based on the ARM architecture, the two companies have been quite chummy in recent months - leading to speculation that AMD may even be in the market for an ARM license of its own.

For now, the formation of the HSA Foundation appears to be a simple confluence of interests, with all the companies involved having a stake in the promotion of heterogeneous computing. ARM, for example, produces Mali GPUs in addition to its Cortex processors, and AMD makes CPUs and GPUs, as well as its relatively new line of Accelerated Processing Units, or APUs, which combine CPU and GPU capabilities on a single chip.

AMD has also been a staunch promoter of industry standards for CPU and GPU computing in recent years. That's in contrast to rivals like Intel and Nvidia, which generally support standards but also develop their own proprietary technology platforms, like Nvidia's CUDA architecture and programming language.

"AMD, ARM, TI, MediaTek and Imagination are coming together to provide easy software developer access to the parallel processing capabilities of GPUs," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "This will place CPUs, GPUs, and other accelerators as equal citizens across computing platforms. If the HSA Foundation gets support from Microsoft with Visual Studio, Google with Android SDK and Apple with XCode, this would be a real game changer."