OpenCL 1.1 Turns Five, Open-Source CL Adoption Still Disappointing

Written by Michael Larabel in Standards on 21 June 2015 at 10:36 AM EDT. 20 Comments
This week marked five years since the release of OpenCL 1.1. While much time has passed, the open-source OpenCL drivers and free software adoption of the Open Computing Language remains arguably poor.

OpenCL 1.2 is nearly four years old and OpenCL 2.0 nearly two, but the open-source drivers are still lagging. Intel's Beignet is currently working towards OpenCL 2.0 but it's not clear when that will be accomplished with the OpenCL20 branch not being touched now in three months.

Mesa's Gallium3D Clover state tracker is meanwhile still at OpenCL 1.1 but isn't enough to run common OpenCL benchmarks. Last reports were though that at least some Bitcoin miners could run on the OpenCL Gallium3D stack with the modern AMD Radeon graphics driver. AMD has been investing in improvements to Clover, their AMD GPU LLVM back-end, and open-source HSA, but it doesn't seem nearly as mature as Intel's Beignet or way off the OpenCL offering by their Catalyst driver. The Nouveau OpenCL support has since regressed and at last report wasn't fully working.

For OpenCL on the CPU with open-source there's POCL as covered recently in the The Current Open-Source OpenCL Experience On Fedora.

With the open-source OpenCL drivers lacking compared to the closed-source drivers, major distributions -- like Ubuntu -- still aren't shipping with open-source OpenCL support enabled by default. This likely is in turn why Linux desktop software is seldom supporting OpenCL... There's been work on OpenCL support in GIMP/GEGL, OpenCL for LibreOffice, some support in x264, etc, but overall the Linux desktop stack still largely lacks support for exploiting parallel tasks via OpenCL.

What's your views on OpenCL for the open-source Linux desktop? One could hope that the open-source support will improve going forward in the Vulkan world due to the SPIR-V intermediate representation being used by both graphics and compute with OpenCL 2.1+, but we'll have to first see how long it takes for the open-source drivers to get into competitive shape. Share your thoughts in our forums for this weekend debate topic.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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