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Rogue Wave eats Acumem

Lifting HPC multicore performance

Rogue Wave Software, a niche provider of compilers and programming tools for HPC shops, has acquired Acumem AB, a maker of performance tuning tools for single- and multi-threaded applications.

Parallel programming is so hard that even the smartest techies in the world have trouble with it, and that's why programming tools that mask these difficulties are the key to the future in our parallel universe. It is also why Rogue Wave made its move.

The problem, as Steve Conway, HPC research vice president at IDC, puts it in the statement announcing the acquisition, is that adding more cores and threads to certain supercomputing applications does not necessarily boost performance. And in many cases, performance actually can get worse, not better.

According to IDC surveys, 12 per cent of the HPC shops it polled recently said they have code that is running worse on newer multithreaded gear than on prior less-threaded iron, and 50 per cent said they expect to have such retrograde performance in the next year. So to make C, C++, and Fortran compilers work properly on these multicore and multithreaded machines, you can't just drop code onto the threads and hope for the best.

Rogue Wave was founded in 1989 and has bopped around the Western US and through a few acquisitions of its own, eventually being acquired in 2007 by private equity firm Battery Ventures. Since then, Rogue Wave has used the deep pockets of its sugar daddy to beef up its parallel programming tool offerings.

In May 2009, Rogue Wave acquired Visual Numerics for its math libraries (ISML) and its visual data analysis development environment (PV-Wave) to combine these tools with its own SourcePro C++ parallel compilers and HydraExpress framework for creating C++ Web services from their existing C++ code.

In January 2010, the company bought again, snapping up TotalView technologies for its serial and parallel debugging tools for C, C++, and Fortran. Just last month, TotalView 8.9 went into beta with support for debugging in Nvidia's CUDA GPU parallel programming environment.

With the Acumem ThreadSpotter, SlowSpotter, and SpotLite tools, HPC programmers will be able to analyze their code to find out where it is getting tangled up in all the threads. ThreadSpotter helps show where code is running poorly over multiple threads and cores, while SlowSpotter shows how single-threaded applications can be sped up.

The tools work on Linux, Solaris, and Windows in either 32-bit or 64-bit mode running on x86 or x64 systems. ThreadSpotter costs $1,995 per year for a single developer license, while SlowSpotter costs $995 per year. SpotLite is a freebie crippleware version of the tools that only runs on Linux or Solaris and has limited functions from each tool enabled but a bunch turned off.

Acumem was founded in 2006 by Erik Hagersten, a professor at Uppsala University, who is the company's chief technology officer. The tools that Hagersten and his team from the university created look at memory bandwidth, memory latency, data locality, and thread communications/interaction to find performance bottlenecks, and then instead of just leaving you sitting there scratching your head, the ThreadSpotter and SlowSpotter tools rank each bottleneck in terms of severity and point you to the source code that is creating the problem, thus enabling a programmer to assign blame to someone else's crappy code if this is the case, or to quickly fix it before other coders find out.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, with both companies being privately held. Rogue Wave is bringing all Acumem employees on board, and Hagersten is sticking around, too, and will operate from the same offices in Sweden. ®

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