Virtualization, cloud computing and other headline-grabbing developments are set to vastly remake the enterprise in the next few years. But there is one technology that trumps them all, although it has gotten relatively little attention to date.
Parallel processing has been slowly dawning on the IT consciousness since the advent of multicore silicon. But only lately has the realization sunk in that the computer industry is about to undergo a radical shift in the very nature of CPU-based processing itself.
HPCWire's Michael Feldman lays out a good description of the likely permutations here. Once you get the notion that the future will be dominated by general-purpose multicores and data parallel engines, then all the recent moves by the chip companies start to make sense: AMD's purchase of ATI, Intel's interest in the Cell processor and high-end visual systems -- even Nvidia's new focus on HPC technology.
Sun Microsystems is also making a play, coming up with a new transactional memory process for its Rock Processor. The Hybrid Transaction Memory (HTM) system is said to provide an easier development environment than the multi-threading approaches being investigated by Microsoft and Intel.
And speaking of Microsoft, could it be that parallel processing holds the key to the company's forays into the cloud? ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley certainly thinks so, having read up on the forthcoming SCOPE (Structure Computations Optimized for Parallel Execution) language. SCOPE is expected to play a major role on Microsoft's back-end cloud storage system, Cosmos. And there's also talk of a parallel approach to the Midori project, the expected replacement for Windows.
The parallel angle also puts a new spin on Microsoft's recent purchase of data warehouse company DATAllegro. It seems that DATAllegro's platform offers massively parallel processing (MPP) capability, matching only market-leader Teradata and far out-classing the offerings of rivals such as Oracle. What's more, DATAllegro's brand of MPP is supported by standard Intel and AMD multicore technology.
How much impact will this have on the enterprise? Well, that depends. The move to parallel architectures is likely to be quite costly and time-consuming, requiring skills that will be difficult to master and very expensive. On the other hand, if parallelism is going to be part and parcel of the cloud anyway, it just might make more sense to offload your resources there and let your provider worry about it.