Microsoft's shift to parallel computing

David Worthington
August 1, 2008 —  (Page 1 of 4)
Microsoft has embarked on a cross-company effort to transition to parallel computing. In that mission, it will attempt to soften the impact of those changes on developers.

Several groups within Microsoft are working on new technologies for multicore hardware architecture and concurrent computing scenarios, such as cloud computing.

The company’s developer division, the Robotics Group and an incubation group directed by chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie are among those participating in that effort. SD Times interviewed the executives from those groups to learn more about their work.

The goal of the developer division is to make concurrency easy for developers, said Lynne Hill, general manager of the division’s parallel programming group.

Its initial work revolves around creating a concurrency runtime that operates on top of Windows, as well as adding extensions and libraries to existing .NET programming languages. These create a common scheduling framework for developers.

The division released in June a community technology preview of the Parallel FX library, which includes Parallel Language Integrated Query (PLINQ), a concurrent query execution engine for LINQ and Task Parallel Library (TPL), which provides parallel extensions for the .NET Framework.

Hill explained that this permits developers to inject parallelism into applications using models that they are already familiar with, but noted that developers should recognize when a particular problem might lend itself to parallelism.

Microsoft’s long-term intention is to integrate extensions for parallelism into .NET languages, she said. “The advantage of starting out with a library is to gather feedback; it makes modifications easier,” she added.

The company’s research labs are investigating new languages that are purposed for parallelism, including a functional language called F#. Hill noted that each developer can have a different requirement from a language, and that one language alone is not sufficient.

“Most of the problem is not the OS. Most of the activity lays in programming lines and implementations of those languages,” commented Microsoft technical fellow Burton Smith. “The major changes visible to people will be in languages and the [resulting] implementations.”

Related Search Term(s): cloud computing, multicore, Microsoft

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