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Nvidia launches Nsight CUDA dev tools into Eclipse

Visual Studio tools get some polish, too

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GTC 2012 Nvidia kicked off its GPU Technical Conference today by launching an updated version of its Nsight development platform that wraps around the CUDA compiler set and now interfaces with Eclipse-based integrated development environments.

Nvidia also unwrapped updated versions of the Nsight tools that plug into Microsoft's Visual Studio IDE, at the shindig in San Jose, California.

Nvidia obviously wants for graphics and HPC application developers to have an easier time coding on its GPUs and GPU coprocessors. Back in July 2010 the company rolled up a bunch of tools for GPU computing and graphics processing that were available individually and made a plug-in to hook them into the Visual Studio 2008 IDE to make it a snap for programmers working from the Windows environment to dispatch work to GPUs.

Parallel Nsight Standard Edition 1.0, as the original stack was called, included a graphics debugger and a graphics inspector. The graphics debugger could debug Microsoft's HLSL graphics shading language right on the GPU as it is running, and could also examine how shaders were executing in parallel on the GPU. The graphics inspector did real-time examination of DirectX calls and monitored the the GPU pipeline state as applications step through their code. It also had a pixel history function to show how each operation in the application affects any pixel on the screen.

With the Professional Edition, Nvidia tossed in a parallel debugger for compute - you can debug right on the GPUs and look at thousands of threads executing in parallel at the same time and use conditional breakpoints to fix their bugs. A system analyzer was also in this edition of the Nsight tool, which showed what instructions are executing in both the CPUs and GPUs on a timeline as applications run. Professional Edition cost $349 per seat while Standard Edition was free. Both ran on Windows XP, Vista, and 7 desktops, now support Visual Studio 2008 and 2010, and hook into GeForce and Quadro discrete graphics cards and Tesla GPU coprocessors.

Now, with the 2.2 release announced today, Nvidia has thrown all of the Parallel Nsight features into one pot (no more editions) and has made plug-ins available for both Visual Studio and Eclipse IDEs while at the same time branding the toolkit just Nsight. There are two editions: one for Visual Studio and one for Eclipse.

The Eclipse edition lets coders working from Linux and MacOS environments integrate with these debuggers and analyzers and hook into the CUDA compiler stack for GPU applications.

With the updated release, Nvidia is adding automatic code refactoring, which converts sequential CPU loops automatically into GPU kernels where they can execute in parallel on the GPUs. Nvidia is also adding in syntax highlighting and autocompletion for both CPU and GPU code (pity it can't just write all the code, eh?) and an expert code analysis system that can help programmers deal with bottlenecks in their hybrid CPU-GPU applications. The Eclipse edition makes use of the CUDA 5 toolkit, which is still in preview and which includes Nvidia's own C and C++ compilers.

With Nsight Visual Studio Edition, Nvidia is now allowing you to debug code on a single GPU. Before, you needed to have one GPU to run the code and one GPU to run the debugger and analysis tools. Now, if you have the CUDA 1.1 or higher compiler stack, you can get by with one GPU, which saves you dough and hassle.

Nvidia is also boosting the performance for the frame profiler and debugger, and supporting DirectX 9 frame debugging, frame profiling, and analysis. The Visual Studio Edition 2.2 also supports the CUDA 4.2 compiler stack and the new "Kepler" GPUs, too, which began their rollout in the GeForce graphics chips in March.

Nvidia is giving freebie versions of the Nsight tools away to coders that become registered developers; it was not clear at press time if Nvidia is charging coders that don't register if they want to use the tools with their Eclipse or Visual Studio IDEs. But Nvidia confirmed from the floor of the GPU Tech Conference that the tools are now free and that it has created only one edition of the Eclipse and Visual Studio tool stacks. You can download the Visual Studio Edition here and the Eclipse edition there. ®

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