updated 09:45 am EDT, Wed July 23, 2008
DirectX 11 with GPGPU Tech
Microsoft's next version of DirectX will have its own alternative to the OpenCL standard proposed by Apple, the company revealed yesterday at its GamesFest conference. DirectX 11 will have support for "compute shader technology" that allows modern, more generalized video cards' effects processors to perform tasks other than rendering video, including physics calculations and other chores that would normally be handled by the main system processor.
The technology could help not only games but also media editing and scientific work, which can often use the specific nature of newer graphics hardware to greatly accelerate math by using the video card as a parallel processor. Both AMD and NVIDIA already have video cards which can be used for the tasks and have also converted video chipsets into dedicated workstation processors, including AMD's FireStream series and NVIDIA's Tesla offerings.
However, the new format also potentially challenges the growth of OpenCL. Where Apple's proposed standard will appear first in Mac OS X Snow Leopard but if approved would be available to any operating system, Microsoft's DirectX library will run only within Windows, discouraging support from primarily Windows-focused software developers who hope to implement compute shaders into either games or productivity apps.
The new upgrade should also have support for more modern existing hardware and rendering techinques that haven't been implemented before. DirectX will become multi-core aware to help developers juggle graphics, sound, and other elements between multiple main processors, while the video element will enable tesselation that automatically adds or subtracts geometry detail from objects as the viewer gets close or backs away.
Microsoft hasn't yet set a timetable for the release of DirectX 11, though it will likely require Windows Vista and will be directly backwards compatible with software written for DirectX 10.