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Accelerated thinking

Photo by Christopher Huang.

The future success of supercomputing lies in the use of accelerated processing units, said Phil Rogers, a corporate fellow for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company that develops computer processors for the commercial and consumer sectors.

“Our goal is to figure out how to make accelerated processing units as accessible to programmers as CPUs are today,” Rogers told more than 50 members of academia and industry in the Raytheon Amphitheater last Thursday for a conference on high-speed computing.

The conference—which was cosponsored by AMD, Microway, Qualcomm, Analog Devices and Hewlett-Packard—also featured a poster session and several presentations by industry leaders and Northeastern faculty, including an analysis of graphics processing units (GPU) computing for 21st century materials science by physics professor Alain Karma.

Rogers, who has developed 3D graphics and parallel computation software for more than 20 years, gave a detailed overview of his company’s next generation of graphics architecture, which will fuse CPUs and GPUs into a single accelerated processing unit or APU.

The integrated approach, he said, would improve battery life for AMD platforms and accelerate the speed of applications that leverage the programming interface OpenCL via the GPU.

Graphics processing units, which can rapidly manipulate computer graphics, “bring Hollywood realism to real-time entertainment,” he said.

Melvin Bernstein, the senior vice provost for research and graduate education, welcomed attendees to the conference.

Northeastern, he noted, is one of five university partners in the new $168 million Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, a nine-acre facility in Holyoke, Mass., which will use high-speed computers to analyze complex scientific problems, such as the evolution of the galaxy.

The facility will be completed in about a year. “The goal is for engineers and computer scientists to come together and collaborate on solving research problems across disciplines,” Bernstein said.

Sophomore electrical and computer engineering major Neel Shah, who attended the lecture, said accelerated processing units are the future of computing technology. “APUs are the next generation for computing because they can do parallel computing faster than a CPU,” he said.