CAPS, the end…
By   |  July 02, 2014

After more than twelve highly productive years, the French publisher of one of the two OpenACC compilers on the market – some of you also know them as experts in parallel codes optimization – has thrown in the towel. Their bankruptcy last summer was a turning point; the company, which during better times had up to 40 employees, has been in financial trouble ever since.

If reasons for this sad ending are numerous, one was probably decisive: although compiler development requires substantial investments, the business model tends to become ultimately unprofitable. While most users know that this highly technical piece of software is essential for programming processors, more often than not it is seen as part of a hypothetical suite of tools included with expensive systems. This disputable notion made CAPS unable to negotiate its debts through Bpifrance (the list of creditors includes the French government). Nor could they, unfortunately, find a buyer willing to go on with the adventure.

As early as 2007, CAPS was a frontrunner in programming directives for accelerated computing with the HMPP (Hybrid Manycore Parallel Programming) API and a production version of its source-to-source compiler. In 2009, NVIDIA realized that these directives could be an alternative, or at least a supplement, to a proprietary and more demanding CUDA. The lack of responsiveness from OpenMP led to the creation of the OpenACC consortium with PGI, CAPS and Cray as founding members, with a mission to standardize a programming model soon to be adopted by the community.

Since NVIDIA’s acquisition of PGI, CAPS remained the only independent publisher in the industry. The company had OpenACC compilers for all architectures, including Intel’s Xeon Phi, NVIDIA’s Tesla and AMD’s FirePro/Fusion. It was also involved in many French and European research projects in which the team’s innovative ideas were always inspiring. In this context of difficult economic times but brighter and brighter HPC perspectives, it is regrettable that the authorities failed to maintain a technological jewel of such rare skills. So “Kenavo” as they say in Brittany, and good luck to the guys who for most of them were highly respected friends of ours.

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