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Developers must face parallel programming issues

Posted: 01 Sep 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:parallel programming  multi-threaded software  multi-core platforms  academic research 

Stewart: There's a real parallel universe operating alongside all of this research into the ultimate parallel programming paradigm.

The support of Intel and Microsoft for a Parallel Computing Lab at UC Berkeley highlights the important contribution that large corporations make in funding academic research. Thinking about this, I realised that there's a real parallel universe operating alongside all of this research into the ultimate parallel programming paradigm.

My customers are deploying multi-threaded software onto multi-core platforms. They're not using new languages or tools, just applying their brains to the problem, and launching products to market at an amazing rate.

Don't get me wrong. Academic research is vital, and when next-generation solutions are presented to the waiting world, someone will likely uncover a law of parallel programming as ubiquitous as that of Moore and Amdahl.

In the meantime, let's not forget today's developers who are working to meet performance and power-consumption targets by programming multi-core platforms. They are teaching themselves to use today's languages and methodologies to achieve their goals, and it's not easy. They're making mistakes, learning, making more mistakes and learning more; in the end they're getting their jobs done. Shouldn't tool vendors be doing more to help them? Shouldn't our industry be doing more to share the knowledge and experience that exists for the benefit of all developers? After all, isn't that how academic research works?

Practical guidelines
These observations led to the setting up of a multi-core programming practices working group under the Multicore Association. The idea is to provide hardworking engineers with practical guidelines based on current practices in use by other engineers who have learned how to write parallel software the hard way.

People may say that multi-core software programming with today's languages is just a temporary issue until the real parallel programming solution comes along. But let's not forget that the "gap" in stopgap is often a lot wider than anyone ever thought it would be.

- David Stewart
CEO, Critical Blue

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