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Intel code maximises multi-core processor

Posted: 19 Sep 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Parallel JS  Javascript  multi-core computing 

Intel Corp. releases open source code for Parallel JS, a data-parallel version of Javascript that aims to ease parallel programming for multi-core processors.

The tool marks one small step on a long journey to the many-core future, said Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner in an interview with EE Times. In a Thursday keynote at the Intel Developer Forum here, Rattner demoed the new language and other research efforts aimed at easing parallel programming and reducing power consumption for PCs and servers.

Intel, Microsoft, Nvidia and others have poured millions into university research to define the tools tomorrow's programmers will need for the many-core processors now on their drawing boards. To date, parallel programming has been confined to use by experts in highly specialised technical applications.

"We're making good progress, but there won't be one [programming] model—there will be multiple models," Rattner said in the interview.

 Justin Rattner

Rattner: We are basically telling developers that it's time to think creatively about heterogeneous computing.

Parallel JS represents one of those models. The language boosts performance for data-intensive, browser-based apps such as photo and video editing and 3-D gaming running on Intel chips. It is meant to appeal to mainstream Web programmers who use scripting languages.

Rattner demoed the language's capability to harness up to eight x86 cores on an Intel CPU for a high-end animation.

"Most software written these days is in a scripting language like Java or Python, but to date those programmers have not had access to multi-core tools," Rattner said. Parallel JS is "a pretty important step that gets us beyond the prevailing view that once you are beyond a few cores, multi-core chips are only for technical apps," he said.

A future version of the language also will harness the graphics cores now embedded on Intel's latest processors. To that end, Rattner demoed a face recognition app that used both x86 and graphics cores.

"We are basically telling developers that it's time to think creatively about heterogeneous computing," Rattner said.

Many core, mobile outlook
In its labs, Intel also is working on ways to improve today's data-parallel tools used to run general purpose programs on graphics processors. The current such as OpenCL and Nvidia's Cuda tools use relatively low-level data primitives closely tied to hardware, Rattner said.

Intel is working on alternatives using higher-level programming abstractions such as nested vectors used in dense- and sparse-matrix arithmetic. The company could release those tools in 2012, Rattner said.

The new software represents an effort to bring to today's C++ programmers some of the concepts of the emerging school called functional programming.

"Functional programming looks to be one of the foundations for parallel programming going forward with higher levels of abstraction and more automation of parallelism," said Rattner. "The compiler can extract the parallelism and doesn't require the programmer to be as explicit as they have to be with OpenCL or Cuda," he added.

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