Missed the boat on this one?

Oracle and AMD propose GPU-harnessing Java project

Chris Mayer
openjdk

A new OpenJDK project encouraged by Oracle and AMD seeks to grasp GPU power from Java through hardware, in light of the emerging smartphone and tablet market. Too little too late?

A new
OpenJDK project, proposed by Oracle and AMD, aims to establish
whether it is possible to
implement GPU support into Java with a
native JVM.

Essentially, this Oracle-led initiative
seeks to find out whether Java application performance could be
improved by utilising the GPU for computational power, and not just
for graphics. This follows in the footsteps of competitors of
Microsoft, Mozilla and Google – all of whom have turned to hardware
to eke out some GPU browser
power

Hotspot’s Group Lead John Coomes,
alongside AMD’s Gary Frost,

made the proposal on a OpenJDK
mailing list
, detailing why he believes this
investigation is critical for Oracle’s JVM, the most commonly used
virtual machine by Java developers:

This
project will demonstrate the performance advantages of offloading
Java compute to a GPU. We propose to use the Hotspot JVM, and will
concentrate on code generation, garbage collection, and runtimes.
Performance will be improved, while preserving compile time, memory
consumption and code generation
quality.

The project
will also explore the possibilities of enabling GPU support for
various other JVM languages, such as Nashorn, Scala, JRuby,
JavaScript, opening up possibilities for developers not necessarily
keen on using plain old Java.

The proposal
also states the intentions to bring in Java 8 Lambda library
features along the way, but it is also quick to recognise the Java
API challenges that could emerge such as extensions. This
would mean new standards would have to be created through the Java
Community Process, and this has also been taken into
account.

AMD are
putting their weight behind the project, with Frost
pledging committers
from his development team. The GPU project
would maintain one or more code repositories within the larger
OpenJDK HotSpot repository and maintain a developers mailing
list.

With GPU
compiler projects like Rootbeer cropping up
recently, there’s a clear demand for greater graphics control in
Java. Now seems the ideal time to pursue the option of segmenting
Java processing into GPU and CPU, to lighten the load. Oracle
recognises the need to accelerate performance, to accommodate for
more demanding graphics within apps on smartphones and tablets. But
have they moved too late? The rest of the competition have already
done this.

But the
biggest stumbling block could well be the length of time it would
take to see this standardisation. OpenJDK certainly has noble
intentions but as recent events have shown us, it takes a fair bit
of time for anything to get close to getting into Java.

Pessimism
aside though, it’s a bold and needed proposal that should be
applauded for its intentions. Whether we see it come to fruition is
another matter. 

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