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Parallel language targets safety-critical systems

Posted: 02 Aug 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:programming language  software analysis  parallelism 

Software verification technology vendor SofCheck Inc. and Ada Compilers are working on a parallel programming language—Parallel Specification and Implementation Language or ParaSail that targets safety-critical systems where C/C++ and parallelisations of C/C++ are considered unsafe.

According to the companies, the programming language is being developed "from scratch" and is also intended to use abundant processing resources that will soon be potentially available.

SofCheck believes that chips with more than 64 cores will become relatively easy to make, but they will prove difficult to program effectively without a well-constructed parallel programming language.

SofCheck's chairman and chief technology officer is Tucker Taft, known as an industry leader in compiler construction and programming language design. It was Taft, while employed at Intermetrics Inc., who was the lead designer of the Ada 95 programming language and helped add formal methods to parts of the Ada language.

In June 2010, Taft presented a paper, "An Introduction to ParaSail," at the Ada Europe conference held in Valencia, Spain. He also presented a paper by the same title at the recently held Open Source Convention.

According to the abstract of Taft's Oscon paper "ParaSail is a new language, but it borrows concepts from other programming languages, including the ML/OCaml/F# family, the Lisp/Scheme/Clojure family, the Algol/Pascal/Modula/Ada/Eiffel family, the C/C++/Java/C# family, and the region-based languages, especially Cyclone."

The language is described as being simpler than many others with only four basic concepts; modules, types, objects, and operations. It does not include pointers, exceptions and uses stack and region-based data storage management rather than garbage collection. It supports implicit parallelism, making programmers work to achieve sequential operation, rather than the other way around. By default the program constructs run in parallel and it promotes a formal approach to software with compile-time checks for correctness with respect to the formal annotations.

In the Oscon paper, Taft was set to describe the status of a prototype compiler and a ParaSail Virtual Machine.

- Peter Clarke
  EE Times

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