In August John Coomes from Oracle made a proposal to add GPU support to Java. One month later, on Sep 10, he proposed the creation of a new project called Sumatra to continue with this endeavour. On Sep 24 this project was approved by a 100% vote in favour. During the recent JavaOne 2012 AMD officially announced its participation in OpenJDK Project Sumatra in collaboration with Oracle and OpenJDK to bring heterogenous computing to Java for server and cloud environments. The Inquirer also reports on this subject.
This is very exciting news indeed. Although there are already two libraries for GPU programming in Java – namely rootbeer and aparapi, having GPU support built in to the Java language, the Java API and most importantly the JVM will provide an alternative more compelling than the use of any external library. And to be quite frank there could not be a collaborator than AMD given their vast contribution to date to OpenCL and OpenCL development tools. And unlike Nvidia, they are wholly committed to OpenCL and not working on their own proprietary alternative.
Although it’ll be a while before this project sees any substantial contribution I cannot wait to see this take form over the next year or two. OpenCL and, in general, the GPU programming paradigm is hard; very hard; and even more importantly porting existing code is even harder; and if anyone can make this domain accessible to the mainstream it’s Java. Once Sumatra is ready hopefully we won’t have to write OpenCL anymore. We’ll be able to write normal Java, compile it and at either compile time or runtime the byte code will get translated into OpenCL and compiled. At execution time we won’t have to worry about what hardware we’re running because with any luck it’ll be write once run anywhere!