Intel Pushing Parallelism to Developers

Intel on Friday said it is inviting programmers to develop programs that can take advantage of the parallel computing capabilities on its future multicore processors.

By providing software tools, Intel wants to get programmers to build software that takes advantage of the large number of cores and multithreading capabilities in its upcoming Larrabee processor to execute and run a larger number of tasks at once.

"Intel is creating an entire family of developer tools to help speed and ease the shift to parallel computing and software design," said Bill Kircos, an Intel spokesman.

The beginning of its efforts to attract programmers came earlier this week when it released a beta version of Intel Parallel Composer, which the company calls its "first" software tool that allows Windows developers to adopt parallelism for multicore computing. The Composer speeds up software development by incorporating parallelism to multiple compilers including the C/C++ compiler.

"The public beta of our Intel Parallel Composer is another new product for us to better help Windows developers adopt parallelism for multicore [computing]," Kircos said.

Intel Parallel Composer currently is compatible only with Windows, and new features that debuted in the tool will be available sometime next year for the Mac OS X and Linux compilers, an Intel spokesman said.

The Composer is part of Intel Parallel Studio, a suite of tools Intel said will enable developers to write programs for parallel computing. Intel Parallel Studio extends parallelism to Microsoft's Visual Studio application development suite by supplying new features in the C and C++ compiler and by extending the debugger, among other features.

Programs developed with Intel Parallel Studio will be able to migrate to machines that carry the Larrabee chip, the company said. The Studio is available in beta through May 2009 at Intel's Web site.

Larrabee chips will include many cores and combine processing capabilities of GPUs with the x86 architecture, improving application and graphics performance. The chip will also include support for multiple APIs (application programming interfaces) including OpenGL and DirectX, allowing the chip to run existing games and software.

However, transferring Larrabee-specific programs to other platforms -- like gaming consoles -- could be a problem. Intel is trying to offset that with plans to support more software environments, and it is working with companies like Apple to develop programming tools.

As more multithreaded cores are added to computers, Intel and Microsoft are jointly investing in universities and other efforts to encourage programmers to take advantage of parallel programming, Kircos said. Both the companies earlier this year committed US$20 million to research centers in the University of California, Berkeley and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign to promote software design in multicore computing over the next five years.

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