Microsoft opens hardware acceleration spec for C++ ahead of Visual Studio 11 beta


Microsoft on Friday announced the publication of the C++ Accelerated Massive Parallelism (AMP) specification under the Microsoft Community Promise license. This specification lets C++ developers write programs that can compile and execute on data-parallel hardware like discrete graphics cards or the SIMD vector instruction set in a processor. It can also be thought of as hardware acceleration.

Soma Somasegar, the Vice President of Microsoft's Developer Division, revealed last summer that the company was working on support for parallelism in the next version of Visual Studio.

"In the last few years, we have been seeing an additional trend of heterogeneous hardware where, for example, developers take advantage of the GPU for computational purposes for their data parallel algorithms. This has been successful in narrow verticals using niche programing models. Microsoft wants to bring to the mainstream the ability to write code that takes advantage of heterogeneous hardware like GPUs. So like we’ve done with multi-core before, we are bringing this ability to the next version of Visual Studio," Somasegar said.

Then in September, Microsoft launched the developer preview of Visual Studio 11, and revealed the IDE would include support for parallelism in C++ via the AMP spec, specifically so developers could take advantage of the GPU for compute purposes.

With AMD and Nvidia already on board, Microsoft has published C++ AMP as an open standard (PDF available here) in hopes of grabbing the broadest support from C++ compiler publishers so developers can have access to a wider array of heterogenous hardware when using Visual Studio 11.

"Microsoft supports and encourages anyone to implement the C++ AMP open specification on any platform, and we are actively working with interested parties already," Microsoft developer Daniel Moth said on Friday. "If you are a compiler, hardware, or operating system vendor who is interested in C++ AMP support for your platform, read the spec and feel free to get in touch."

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