Centers of Excellence Lead Adoption of oneAPI’s Vision

A Personal Look Back at Intel® Innovation 2022

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Heterogeneous, Open-Standards Insights

I am a senior principal engineer in Intel Labs.  Unless you do research in parallel computing, you probably don’t know me because I do not blog much, nor do I participate in social media. 

So what do I do? I write books and research papers about parallel computing.  I work with the academic community and technologists buried deep inside Intel to understand where technology is moving and how Intel can position itself to stay at the technological cutting edge.

Figure 1. oneAPI Concepts for Heterogeneous Compute

I had the honor of representing Intel’s oneAPI team on stage at Intel® Innovation 2022.  That was a bit odd since I’m a researcher, not a products person, but it did make sense—not quite ten years ago, I was part of a small group of technologists asked to come up with an answer to what we knew was a pressing question: Given a future based on heterogenous hardware crashing towards us like a tsunami, what should Intel do to help the community of software developers prepare?  We were asked to focus on C++.

After a rigorous process, we proposed that Intel should focus on SYCL*; a C++ solution for programming heterogenous hardware based on our work with OpenCL™ in the Khronos* standards organization.

Figure 2. SYCL Implementations Targeting Multiple Backends

The Importance of Software and Open Standards

Intel understands that our hardware is useless without software. Since we sell components used to build systems, not the end-user-facing systems themselves, we influence software through the ecosystem.  We don’t build walled gardens (i.e., wonderful software frameworks that lock you in to our platform). Standards and industry standards bodies (such as the Khronos Group) are fundamental to our strategy. 

We needed a vision for the future of software in a heterogenous world. Then we needed to pull together fellow travelers around a set of industry standards, composed into an integrated solution for programming heterogenous systems. 

The result was an industry initiative called oneAPI.   

At Innovation 2022, we presented the motivation for oneAPI and a high-level overview of what is inside it.  This includes SYCL for C++ programmers, OpenMP* for Fortran and C programmers, and a collection of high-level APIs application developers depend on.  These are layered on top of a shared set of low-level APIs (including LLVM and something we call Level-0) so all those languages and APIs work together to support application programmers.

Languages and APIs are important, but they are not enough.   Applications make markets, not processors or programming languages.  Only by working with applications programmers can we be sure oneAPI is on the right path (and stays on that path).

The Exciting Contribution of Academic Centers of Excellence

A strong focus of our applications strategy is supporting oneAPI Centers of Excellence (CoE).  These collaborations with leading universities and research centers keep Intel engaged with key thought leaders in application programming. We bring to the table access to Intel systems, software, and people.  And the CoE brings applications and insights that guide the future of oneAPI.   

At our session at Innovation 2022, we highlighted two CoEs: one at the Stockholm University (Erik Lindahl with GROMACS) and the other at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (David Hardy with NAMD).

GROMACS and NAMD are two of the leading applications for doing molecular dynamics on parallel systems.  They have a long reputation of closely tracking the latest developments in systems for high-performance computing.  We discussed SYCL, the experiences they had working with it (both positive and negative), and where they see the future for standards such as SYCL.

Rather than summarize what they had to say, I refer you to the video of our panel discussion:

If you are interested in more from the Innovation 2022 Tech Insights discussions, check out my full interview:

The entire Tech Insights session can be found here.

The future of oneAPI is bright, thanks in part to our COE program and people such as Erik and David.

Additional Innovation 2022 Resources:

Next Steps

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