IBM Delivers Smart Open-Source Compiler

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-06-30 Print this article Print

IBM announces the public availability of Milepost GCC, an open-source machine learning compiler that IBM says allows applications to be developed, tested and optimized 10 times faster than current tools.

IBM announced June 3 the public availability of Milepost GCC, a first-of-its-kind open-source machine learning compiler.

The Milepost GCC compiler "intelligently optimizes applications, translating directly into shorter software development times and bigger performance gains," IBM officials said in a news release.

IBM's Research Lab in Haifa, Israel, worked with academia and private industry in the European Union to polish the new compiler, which, unlike commercially available compilers, employs artificial intelligence to tweak individual pieces of code.

With the compiler, applications can be developed, tested and optimized 10 times faster than current tools, according to IBM. Moreover, performance of the software programs can be improved by an average of 18 percent, IBM officials said. These improvements are significant, given that the average company "devotes 30 to 50 percent of its entire technology infrastructure to the development and testing of software," according to IBM.

IBM reported that it experienced the 18 percent performance improvement on embedded-application benchmarks conducted on IBM System p servers. The new compiler is a result of collaboration between IBM and its partners in the European Union-funded Milepost consortium.

IBM officials said the compiler is expected to "reduce time-to-market for new software designs. ... For example, when a company wants to develop a new mobile phone, it normally takes application developers many months to get their software running at an acceptable level of performance. Milepost GCC can reduce the amount of time it takes to reach that level by a factor of 10."

"Our technology automatically learns how to get the best performance from the hardware-whether mobile phones, desktops or entire systems, the software will run faster and use less energy," Bilha Mendelson, manager of code optimization technologies at IBM Research Haifa, said in the release. "We opened the compiler environment so it can access artificial intelligence and machine learning guidance to automatically determine exactly what specific optimizations should be used and when to apply them to ramp up performance."

"We've developed a more cost-effective development process where you can choose to integrate additional functionality or use less power in your current system," Milepost Project Coordinator Mike O'Boyle, professor of computer science at the University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics, said in the release. "Previously, the same devices could only support a limited list of features while still maintaining a high level of performance. Significantly boosting an application's performance means there's now more room for added functionality while maintaining high performance."

According to the release:

As a by-product of the Milepost technology, the consortium has launched a code-tuning web site available to the development community. Developers can upload their software code to the site and automatically get input on how to tune their code so it works faster.

The Milepost GCC compiler is available to everyone as of June 25 from the consortium's website The project consortium includes the IBM Haifa Research Lab, Israel; the University of Edinburgh, UK; ARC International Ltd., UK; CAPS Enterprise, France; and INRIA, France. 

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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