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Daniel ~ 13th March, 2009 06:18 PM

Software Developers Need to Think Parallel Says Intel
Written by Daniel
Friday, 13 March 2009

Intel says parallel software is more important for many-core CPUs like "Larrabee"

Shane McGlaun (Blog) - March 11, 2009 1:56 PM

Multi-core processors have been in the consumer market for several years now. However, despite having access to CPUs with two, three, four, and more cores, there are still relatively few applications available that can take advantage of multiple cores.

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cloasters 13th March, 2009 10:32 PM

Don't suppose that Intel would pay for the coding required? Might be smart.

Aedan 16th March, 2009 12:47 PM

Intel is realising that to sell more chips with multiple cores, people have to have a reason to buy them? Perhaps Intel would care to aid programmers in how to deal with all of the nasty gotchas that parallel processing introduces, rather than just making out that programmers can't be bothered.

cloasters 16th March, 2009 10:44 PM

Intel is so far ahead now--might be good insurance to aid with the programming changes needed to take advantage of all those cores. Or they could sit on their laurels, it must be tempting, AMD looks weak in the short term. And maybe not so short.

Aedan 17th March, 2009 05:34 PM

The thing is that all general processing appears to be going parallel at the moment - everyone has multiple cores... Graphics cards have been the leaders in parallelism though, often exceeding 100 cores on a GPU.

Intel's playing catchup in some respects.

cloasters 17th March, 2009 09:09 PM

Really? So "96 shaders" means 96 cores? I had no idea.

Aedan 18th March, 2009 02:23 PM

Pretty much, yes. They can be fairly simple, but they are definitely parallel processing.

Gizmo 18th March, 2009 04:42 PM

There are actually a couple of different problems relating to software development on multiple cores.
  • complexity
  • practicality

The complexity issue is the one that software development is having difficulty with right at the moment: running multiple threads of execution (which is really what you are doing with multiple cores) adds a whole host of issues that you don't have to deal with in normal serial (single-threaded) applications. Priority inversions (where a high priority thread is blocking a low priority thread, but must wait on something from the low priority thread before it can continue), contention (where two threads both need access to the same resource), and thread race (where two threads access the same data, and one thread changes the data without the other thread knowing) are just some of the more common conditions, and having multiple cores compounds these problems even more.

Once these issues are resolved, you still have to deal with the issue of practicality: just what do you do with these extra threads. After all, your typical word processor spends the vast majority of its time waiting on input from the keyboard. What should it do, use multiple threads so it can wait on the keyboard multiple times?

Many applications simply aren't amenable to threading because they are inherently serial in the nature of what they do.

This doesn't mean, however, that multiple cores are not useful. It just means that the majority of their value is actually going to come at the OS level: being able to run multiple applications simultaneously without one application slowing down another one noticably. Most everyone has some kind of antivirus scanner running, and that scanner typically looks at files that are being accessed, web pages that are being opened, and e-mails that are being downloaded. Each of those applications could run on an independent core, and the AV software could be using multiple threads on multiple cores itself for the scanning. This will result in a more positive user experience.

Daniel ~ 18th March, 2009 06:53 PM

Thank you Gizmo! ":O}

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