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Boffins: Dark times for application development

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Over to Anant Agarwal, noted MIT computer science professor, co-founder and CTO of semiconductor startup Tilera and quite the catch on Ratemyprofessors.com. He also believes we're living in the dark ages, only this time when it comes to software development tools for multicore processors.

Most PCs and servers coming out of the factories today use dual core or quad core processors, but Agarwal - and others who'd gathered at Boston's embedded systems conference - expect chips with hundred and thousands of cores to be available within two years. Yet there are still no mainstream tools to write applications capable of exploiting their power.

"Multicore has hit us all like a big two-by-four and we're all reeling. Never before has a technology hit so hard, and so fast. And we're all unprepared," Agarwal said. "The current tools are where VLSI design tools were in the 90s. Tools are in the dark ages."

Tilera in August launched its first product, TILE64, a 64-core processor and multicore development environment designed for the embedded systems market.

Still, says Argawal, there are no mainstream tools yet available. He has spent decades focused on parallel processing and led a group that 15 years ago developed Sparcle, an early multithreaded microprocessor based on the SPARC architecture.

On the upside, these obstacles create vast opportunities for innovative start-ups, the co-founders of Intentional and Tilera told their respective mostly-programmer audiences. "Software programming for multicore is hot, and some of you have the opportunity to be the next Microsoft if you can solve these multicore issues," Agarwal said.

Bootnote:

The Register took the chance to ask Simonyi about Gates and his plans to step back from Microsoft next year. Simonyi was quick to point out his friend is leaving behind his day-to-day duties at the company to focus on the Gates Foundation, solving bigger problems than software development. "He's just a great humanitarian and person," Simonyi told us. "But he's also the hardest working person that I know."

Shucks. ®

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