Living in a Parallel Universe

Michael Vizard

Bit by bit, we're starting to see more practical applications on parallel programming models. What's getting everybody interested in the concept of parallel programming today more so than any time in the last 10 years is that we have huge amounts of raw horsepower available in all these inexpensive multicore processors.

As the cores continue to multiply, developers want to take advantage of all those multicore processors to run more functions in parallel across as many processors as possible. Unfortunately, managing the orchestration of those processes is not easy. There are parallel programming development tools from Microsoft and Intel, for example, but they still require developers to master a lot of minute details.

That's one of the reasons that IT organizations are taking a greater interest in parallel servers from companies such as Aster Data. The database allows customers to take advantage of multiple processors in parallel without having to get to far down into the orchestration process because the database handles that.

Why all this matters is because we're on the cusp of some potential major breakthroughs driven by applications that are increasingly becoming affordable to tackle thanks to the advent of new processor architectures from AMD and Intel and commercial software vendors that are investing in mastering the nuances of parallel programming. A lot of applications that would have previously required specialized supercomputers will increasingly be able to run on standard commodity hardware.

What innovations will be brought about as a result of all this access to massive amounts of computing horsepower remains to be seen. But all you have to do is look at the application backlog in any corporate or university research department to get any idea of how many important breakthroughs could be made a lot faster but for the want of more timely access to massive computational resources .

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