How a Little Thing Like an Open Source Graphics Processor could Create Quantum Leaps for Computing

According to the news release, designing a GPU is not an easy feat, and may be even a bigger challenge when you take an open-source approach to it. The Binghamton research team, consisting of Miller, Aaron Carpenter and graduate student Philip Dexterm, along with co-author Jeff Bush, have collectively put decades of time into developing Nyami.

The EurekAlert! release continues:

The open-source GPU that the Binghamton team used for their research was the first of its kind. Although thousands of GPUs are produced each year commercially, this is the first that can be modified by enthusiasts and researchers to get a sense of how changes may affect mainstream chips. Bush, the director of software engineering at Roku, was the lead author on the paper.

“It was bad for the open-source community that GPU manufacturers had all decided to keep their chip specifications secret. That prevented open source developers from writing software that could utilize that hardware,” Miller said. Miller began working on similar projects in 2004, while Bush started working on Nyami in 2010. “This makes it easier for other researchers to conduct experiments of their own, because they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. With contributions from the ‘open hardware’ community, we can incorporate more creative ideas and produce an increasingly better tool.”

The ramifications of the findings could make processors easier for researchers to work with and explore different design tradeoffs. Dexter, Miller, Carpenter and Bush have paved a new road that could lead to discoveries affecting everything from space travel to heart surgery.

“I’ve got a list of paper research ideas we can explore using Nyuzi [the chip has since been renamed to Nyami], focusing on various performance bottlenecks. The idea is to look for things that make Nyuzi inefficient compared to other GPUs and address those as research problems. We can also use Nyuzi as a platform for conducting research that isn’t GPU-specific, like energy efficiency and reliability,” Miller said.

The paper, “Nyami: A Synthesizable GPU Architectural Model for General-Purpose and Graphics-Specific Workloads” appeared in International Symposium on Performance Analysis of Systems and Software.

Source: EurekAlert.org – “Open-source GPU could push computing power to the next level

Featured Photo Credit: Jonathan Cohen, Binghamton University

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