Saturday, 26 May, 2007 Technology

Software Programmers Cannot Reach Supercomputers


Although programmers mentioned that in the near future computers will have an unimagined power, they still wonder if today the developers of hardware have gone as far as the developers of software.

The senior research scientist for Information Technology at Purdue, Faisal Saied mentioned that parallel computing has been an obscure skill, which is limited to those that work in the field of high-performance supercomputing.

He outlined that soon people won't be able to get a computer that is not multicore. Because now multicore chips are becoming more and more popular, programmers are forced to learn new tricks. It is worth mentioning that not everything from the field of high-performance computing is ready for new multicore computers.

"In industry, much of their high-performance code is not parallel," senior research scientist said. He added that corporations invest most of their capital in their software and they are worried about the need to re-engineer that code base.

In the near future high-performance computers will include dozens or hundreds of PCs on a chip. In case computers will continue increasing their performance just like they did during the last few years they will all soon be multicore. Multicore computers are required in such fields like: drug discovery, climate modeling, the design of military weapons and improving manufacturing.

Due to the fact that each PC, or core, should receive its own set of instructions, multicore computers are in need of parallel computer programs. However, the software that is available today is not written in a way so to take advantage of multicore computing.

Today computers deliver instructions in a single file, this is like passing through one single door. In contrast parallel processing is able to open more doors. This however creates some barriers due to the fact that multiple instruction threads are required to open more than one door.

The retired chairman and Chief Executive of Intel Corp., Gordon Moore, noticed that the number of components found on an integrated chip doubles every two years.

It is worth mentioning that about 5 years ago researchers started noticing a certain contradiction between the predicted performance from circuits and the real capability of machines in high-performance computing. Despite the continuous increase of the number of transistors on the circuits, the actual performance remained almost the same. This is because of the issues linked with power and heat.

"Currently, transistor performance is limited by power constraints, causing microprocessor clock speeds to saturate and high-performance microprocessor cores to dissipate more power than simpler alternatives," Tilak Agerwala, vice president of systems at IBM Research mentioned. Intel, IBM, AMD and Sun, as the major chips producing companies, have all announced that the multicore chips production will soon be well under way. This year Intel announced details on its 80 cores fingernail sized chip.

"In five or six years, laptop computers will have the same capabilities, and face the same obstacles, as today's supercomputers... this challenge will face people, who program for desktop computers, too" said the senior research scientist for Information Technology at Purdue, Faisal Saied.

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