AMD Pushes its Software Efforts with Catalyst Omega

HSA 1.0, OpenCL 2.0, CodeXL, and GPU Studio


As part of the launch of AMD’s Omega driver AMD now fully supports both the HSA 1.0 provisonal specification and OpenCL 2.0 through its runtimes. One of AMD’s goals with this launch is to prove to the public that they understand that their products are helpless without the right software investments to back them up. To this end AMD is talking about most of its ongoing software projects.

The HSA foundation was launched back in 2012 a few miles from where I’m writing this story. Since then we’ve seen a multitude of companies join up at different sponsorship levels and the release of both the 0.95 specification and the 1.0 specification. AMD’s Kaveri is the first pre-HSA compatible part and as of late August the HSA Foundation is offering an early version of the HSA software stack on Linux aimed at compiler and language developers that want to add parallel processing to their high-level languages.

AMD HSA Runtime

AMD’s HSA effort is maturing nicely but the real turning point for HSA is going to be its inclusion in the Java 9 virtual machine which is expected to arrive sometime in 2015. Currently only C++ AMP and Java through the Aparapi library are capable of using the HSAIL Runtime and thus HSA. As more languages begin to take advantage of HSA over the next few years its value will continue to grow.

AMD Software OpenCL 2-4

With this Omega driver AMD is announcing support for OpenCL 2.0 as we noted in our article on the driver itself. But more than just supporting OpenCL 2.0 AMD is offering an SDK to enable developers to use OpenCL 2.0 on its chips starting today with the APP 3.0 SDK.

AMD Software OpenCL 2-3

With this SDK AMD hopes to match or leap-frog Intel which began offering OpenCL 2.0 support and its own SDK back in September. No word yet on whether AMD’s SDK is any good, but if there are problems we’ll let you know.

AMD CodeXL 1.6

Speaking of SDKs and tools AMD is also showing off its CodeXL 1.6 OpenCL profiler. We’ve covered CodeXL quite a bit in the past. The big new features of the 1.6 version are OpenCL 2.0 support and power profiling.

AMD CodeXL Power

With the ability to profile the power consumption of a specific application using AMD’s own hardware power monitors on their Mullins and Kaveri APUs CodeXL has just become drastically more powerful. Instead of being a profiler that addresses just the performance side of the performance per watt equation it can now give OpenCL developers feedback on both ends.


This brings us to AMD’s other profiler, GPU Perfstudio. Now in its 3.1 incarnation GPU Perfstudio offers DirectX, OpenGL, and Mantle profiling capabilities on AMD’s hardware. According to the company the major focuses of this revision are performance and stability.

AMD GPU Perf Shader

GPU Perfstudio does sport a new shader analyzer feature though. Compatible with all GCN GPUs and designed for use on DirectX 11 hopefully this new capability will allow developers to squeeze more performance out of their applications.

AMD Gaming Evolved Mantle

Speaking of games Mantle is alive and well with about 100 registered developers and more than 15 games in development. As we covered in our recent series on Mantle’s performance there is a strong case to be made for the inclusion of Mantle in mainstream games thanks to Mantle’s credible performance lead over DirectX. Obviously at least some developers are recognizing the potential of AMD’s graphics API.

AMD Gaming Evolved Raptr

Announced yesterday Raptr’s Gaming Evolved app is adding support for recording and streaming Mantle gameplay. Until now there were no applications that could record Mantle gameplay but thanks to some work by AMD’s driver group there’s now support for third-party Mantle recordings and Raptr is the first app to offer this capability.

AMD Gaming Evolved TressFX 3

Rounding out AMD’s current stable of software initiatives we have TressFX 3.0 which is breaking new ground in that it allows the rendering of hair on to textured objects. This enables more realistic fur rendering and hopefully some new pathways for developers to innovate. AMD has also made it easier to integrate TressFX into a game by releasing a Maya plugin and the source code of its TressFX library. In addition to performance improvements TressFX is now more scalable in that developers have more options to control how and when TressFX is simulating hair.

AMD has a variety of software that its offering both to developers and to the public. Going forward software excellence is going to be one of the keys to success for AMD. Their ability to get new SDKs to developers and to continue pushing new and interesting technologies into video games is a requirement for the company to stay competitive. As it stands now AMD is doing a good job supporting its hardware, but there is always room for improvement and we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.