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Subject: [boost] [compute] review
From: Pavan Yalamanchili (pavan_at_[hidden])
Date: 2014-12-21 16:45:23

*Design and Implementation*

The library provides an STL-like library for OpenCL devices. Although there
are other libraries offering similar behavior, Boost.Compute is the most
complete and the most generalized.

The directory structure is well organized and easy to dig through to
understand the implementation or debug an issue.

Others have pointed out the existence of the OpenCL C++ wrapper and the
fact that Compute library does not use it. Here are a few reasons why I
think the author was *right* in his design decisions.

- The C++ wrapper begins to look similar to the original OpenCL C interface
once you start using it in a generalized fashion.

- cl.hpp is monolithic (single file 12k+ LOC) and is not modular enough to
only include the parts that you need.

- Compute and cl.hpp have two different goals. The biggest selling point of
Compute is the set of algorithms it supports not its C++ wrapper around

Having said that, I think the Compute library might be better off with an
additional interface that accepts the OpenCL-C++ wrapped objects.


The documentation is comprehensive and the API is documented well. There
are a few improvements that can be done.

For example, the reference is at the bottom of the TOC and is hard to see
immediately. The API reference in the TOC can also be expanded out a bit
more to show the general categories of algorithms that are supported.

*Potential Usefulness*

It is fairly easy to transition from applications using vector algorithms
in STL to Compute. The wide availability of OpenCL devices makes the
library useful to a large user base.

*Domain Knowledge*

I am a developer of the ArrayFire library[1]. I am the lead engineer of a
company that specializes in this domain. I consider myself to be fairly
knowledgeable in this domain.

*Experience with the library*

ArrayFire depends on Boost.Compute for a few algorithms in our OpenCL
backend. We explicitly and implicitly (via ArrayFire) test Boost.Compute on
a variety of hardware / compilers / operating systems.

Compilers and Operating systems we use:

- gcc 4.8, 4.9 on various Linux distributions
- clang 3.4 on OSX
- Visual Studio 2013 on Windows.

We have found some bugs through our usage that have been mostly resolved by
the author or by patches sent by us.


The experience overall has been fairly positive. But there are certainly
*some* rough edges that need resolving.

An issue that will plague any OpenCL library is the performance portability
across various devices. It would be nice if the author can talk about how
he plans to eventually address this issue.

Overall, Boost.Compute will be a great addition to Boost. But before it is
accepted the following issues need to be addressed.

- The tests need to be a bit more comprehensive.
- Due to the general nature of OpenCL, there needs to be a list of
"officially supported" devices.
- Make sure all the tests are passing on the supported devices.


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