Multicore: New chips mean new challenges for developers

More and more help is available so developers can write apps for the new-generation chips

With the advent of multicore processors such as the Intel Core Duo, which is now commonplace in PCs, software developers must deal with a new wrinkle -- getting software to be processed across multiple cores -- in order to ensure the maximum performance from their software. But this is much easier said than done, with developers having to tackle issues with concurrency and potential performance bottlenecks. Already, 71 percent of organizations are developing multithreaded applications for multicore hardware, according to a recent IDC survey sponsored by tool vendor Coverity.

Developers need to get an organization-wide commitment to accommodate multicore software development, advises IDC analyst Melinda Ballou. "They need to approach this with a level of commitment to better practices organizationally and from a project perspective for quality management [and] change management as well as development," she says.


Intel's Nehalem chip will push PCs further into a multicore world. Tom Yager explains why Nehalem is such a game changer.

Multicore processors are becoming more prominent because single-core chips have maxed out on the heat and performance scale. Power-consumption issues also have driven development of multicore chips. Chipmakers such as Intel are adding cores to their CPUs. "Over the last 20 years of computing or longer, we've really been able to ride the wave of increased computing power through frequency scaling," says Lynne Hill, general manager of Microsoft's Parallel Computing Platform. But now, a wall (power consumption) has been hit, and hardware has to change if the processing capabilities of PCs are to increase, she says.

The hardware is in fact changing, which puts the burden on developers to adapt their applications to use it. Developers must learn new techniques and use new tools to maximize performance.

That's because multicore processors work differently than single-core ones, processing multiple instructions in parallel. That means software has to break apart its instructions to be able to be processed in parallel as well. "When you have multiple cores, your program has to take advantage of all those cores, and it has to run instructions [on those cores] simultaneously," says Ben Chelf, CTO at Coverity, which offers tools for multicore development. "The challenge is that software never had to be designed to be run in parallel on multiple cores. It always just ran on a single core," says Ray DePaul, CEO of RapidMind, another provider of multicore-development tools.

Cliff Click, a distinguished engineer at Azul Systems who has offered technical presentations on issues with large concurrent programs, stresses the difficulties of writing multithreaded programs. "It's very hard, [but] it doesn't look that hard to begin with," he says.

Companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems are providing assistance with the multicore challenge and parallel programming.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags cpuchipsprogramming

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Krill

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?