Home > GPU, Graphics Cards, Multi-Threading, Processors > OpenCL Will Rock the CAD World, Part 1: Why You Want It

OpenCL Will Rock the CAD World, Part 1: Why You Want It

OpenCLMost CAD users don’t have any reason to be familiar with how graphics languages like OpenGL 4 and DirectX 11 actually work. All that 99% of us care about is that our CAD applications and video cards support the latest versions so we can benefit from high-performance 2D/3D rendering and visualization.

In some ways the new OpenCL compute language isn’t any different. You don’t need to know anything about the inner workings to use it. You just know you want your hardware and software to support it.

On the other hand, OpenCL is a disruptive technology that will jostle market leaders and significantly alter hardware price/performance ratios. So it is worth learning what it does, where it will have the biggest impact and how you can benefit.

Why Do We Need a Compute Language for the CAD World? 

Answer: Increasing model complexity

  • Nowadays automotive models can contain up to 50,000 parts with 10 to 20 GB of data.  The number of triangles can reach 40,000,000 polygons/model.
  • In the mid-1970s a typical model of an automobile chassis had 5,752 node points,
    2108 finite elements and 28,924 degrees of freedom. Today, a typical model of
    an automobile chassis has 12 million node points, 7.2 million elements and 35
    million degrees of freedom.
  • In 2009 a computational fluid dynamics simulation of a racing yacht design
    required a mesh of over 1 billion cells.

Simply put, model complexity is growing exponentially and faster than the ability of
our desktop or laptop machines to easily crunch the data (without running as
hot as the core of a supernova).

The next post in this series will discuss how OpenCL works.

Author: Tony DeYoung

  1. Joe Bond
    May 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Great topic to cover and interesting stats on the growth of CAD data complexity. The ANSYS fluid dynamics yacht study used 512 CPUs running in parallel for a week. That is a lot of hardware. From what I have read on OpenCL (on Develop3D.com), potentially this fluid dynamics simulation software could be written to use OpenCL and then run the computation on one or more everyday GPUs? Does this mean the earlier blog post “Is Your Hardware Preventing Your CAD Software from Reaching Its Potential?” will need to be renamed “Is Your CAD Software Preventing Your Hardware from Reaching Its Potential?

  2. Tony DeYoung
    May 18, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    OpenCL is unique because it can distribute the load between the GPU and CPU, so it doesn’t have to be just one or the other. The code could use both. In this yacht case, the article said the hardware required 2 Terabytes of RAM so if that is the data size, there would likely be lags transferring the data back and forth from the CPU to the GPU (still probably cheaper in time and dollars than running 512 CPUs for a week!) The new crop of Fusion (CPU+GPU) processors should make that transfer bandwidth moot (I’ll cover this more in an upcoming post).

    “Is Your CAD Software Preventing Your Hardware from Reaching Its Potential?” You are anticipating a very unusual thing in the technology world: OpenCL-savvy CAD applications will breathe new life into existing hardware so depending on the application, you could get supercomputer performance levels without any additional hardware upgrades.

  3. andrew roberts
    May 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    The big cad/cam/cae companies are all lazy. They will ‘never’ turn-on these hardware features. SMP proceessors in computers have existed for 20-years and
    yet 99% of all cad/cam products to do not take advantage of the hardware.
    So no OpenCL will be no different.

  4. Tony DeYoung
    May 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I am not as pessimistic as you on this, based on my experience with OpenGL (but I do totally get your point!). Ten+ years ago we developed a community around OpenGL and that community began to put pressure on companies to support OpenGL as their graphics standard – including Apple and even Microsoft (in that case it was to stop MS from dropping ICD support). So I strongly think that if users ask for it, companies do respond.

    Moreover OpenCL will enable smaller developers to create high performance computing software hat runs on lower cost machines (such as my laptop). That will present some competition to the big CAD/CAE players, but it also gives them a path to expand their software to a much broader audience because combined compute-visualization will be more ubiquitous. I think it will follow the pattern we saw with PCs vs Mainframes, but faster.

    Finally I think there will be a huge shift in market perceptions because of the heterogeneous computing designs (e.g. Fusion, Sandy Bridge). Because OpenCL is a vendor neutral standard there are already a lot of companies actively supporting it.

    I’ll be posting more on this in the next 3 blogs.

  1. May 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm
  2. May 31, 2011 at 10:16 pm
  3. June 2, 2011 at 6:38 pm
  4. February 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm

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