Fast Systems Go with What Programmers Know
Opinion: The latest Top 500 list confirms criticality of coder competence.The Processor Forum used to be my favorite conference every year, because I was sure that the ingenuity of processor developers was defining the instruction set environments in which wed spend our time crafting code in the years to come. A briefing on developments in the Alpha or the Itanium or the Power processor family was a preview of an adventure in the offingan orientation to the language wed need to know as we made our way in a fascinating new place. At some point, though, it grew obvious that the most promising destinations were all beginning to be places where they spoke the familiar language of x86. It was like visiting a foreign country, and discovering that the most educated residents were more interested in practicing their English on you than they were in listening to your attempts to speak their language. You could have a much more stimulating conversation in the language you both knew best, and x86 plays that role for an ever larger fraction of the developers who need to speak hardwares language at all.
Thats the message I take away from the Nov. 13 release of the latest Top500 list of supercomputing installations, scheduled for official presentation on Nov. 14 at the SC06 international conference of high performance computing and networking in Tampa, Fla. This list update marks an important shift, with IBMs Power-family processors falling behind AMDs Opterons.