The university joins Intel, AMD and Nvidia to develop new techniques for building apps for multicore chips.
is planning to delve into the world of parallel
On May 2, the university, along with some of world's largest IT companies,
plans to unveil the Pervasive Parallelism Lab, which looks to develop new ways
to create applications that can take advantage of the ever-increasing number of
multicore processors coming into the marketplace.
The lab, which will have a $6 million budget during the next three years,
will not only look for ways to develop new programming languages that make it
easier to create applications that work with parallel
-breaking down information into smaller parts to take advantage of
multiple processing cores-but also to create the hardware to house these new
The companies that are supporting the new center have a lot to gain by
creating more software that works in parallel. Intel, Advanced Micro Devices
and Nvidia-three companies that have each been bringing more and more multicore
chips to market each year-have agreed to support the lab.
In addition, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun
Microsystems have agreed to contribute.
The announcement from Stanford comes after Intel
and Microsoft announced in March that they would together contribute $20
million to develop new centers
for creating new applications and easier
methods for programming in parallel. These UPCRCs (Universal Parallel Computing
Research Centers) are being established at the University
of California at Berkeley
and the University of Illinois
Breaking down information
The entire IT industry is taking a serious look at how parallel computing can
assist application developers working to take full advantage of
the multicore x86 processors being developed by Intel and AMD.
Nvidia is developing GPUs (graphics processing units) that have multiple
cores and require applications that work in parallel to harness the full power
of the graphics chip.
Instead of increasing the clock speed of each new generation of chip, Intel,
and other chip makers have turned to multicore designs to
increase performance. The problem now is moving developers from serial
programming to parallel programming, which is much harder and an area where
there is not a lot of expertise at this point.
"Right now, there are tens of millions of multicore chips that are
being underutilized and what they are creating here makes a lot of sense,"
said John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research who follows the
processor industry. "You need developers out there writing software that
can suck up all the performance that multicore processors offer."
Universities such as Stanford and the University
of California are where the next
generation of developers can be trained to develop these new programming
"Parallel programming is perhaps the largest problem in computer
science today and is the major obstacle to the continued scaling of computing
performance that has fueled the computing industry, and several related
industries, for the last 40 years," Bill Dally, chair of the Computer
Science Department at Stanford, said in a statement.
While companies like Intel are ready to move into a
parallel world, it's not clear whether businesses are ready to leave the old
ways behind. Many companies have systems and applications running in serial
programming and some IT observers say they believe that these businesses might
not want to make a switch that could render mission-critical applications obsolete.