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Intel open-sources multicore development tool

How to take advantage of dual and multicore chips? Intel makes C++ tool open source to spur more applications.

Intel on Tuesday is scheduled to release the source code to a development tool for writing applications to run on multicore chips.

The company released Threading Building Blocks last August, a C++ template designed to simplify the job of writing applications that take advantage of processors with multiple cores, or processing units.

During the last year, Intel found that customers and potential customers wanted greater platform support and assurances that the toolset would be around for a long time, said James Reinders, the director of Intel's software development products.

To address these concerns, Intel has decided to release the tool under the General Public License version 2 with runtime exception. With the runtime exception, commercial software can choose to embed it in their own closed-source products, Reinders said.

Intel will continue to sell support for Threading Building Blocks for $299 a year.

Software vendors and chip manufacturers have for the last few years urged programmers to retool their applications for dual or multicore chips, which are becoming commonplace. But for the most part, there are a few applications that take full advantage of dual-core chips on desktop PCs, for example.

"There is definitely a lot of untapped potential staring us in the face," said Reinders. But "you can't really expect a lot of programmers to do something about parallelism if it is an extreme distraction from their job."

Threading Building Blocks works with Windows, Mac OS X, and popular Linux distributions on x86 chips. Alpha versions of the tool on Solaris 10, FreeBSD and MacOS on G5 chips are also available.