Microsoft, Intel to sponsor multicore development research

Concerned with the difficulty of programming for multicore chips, Microsoft and Intel will sponsor a lab to build frameworks for writing parallel software.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

Correction: The Microsoft and Intel press conference is scheduled for Tuesday.

Microsoft and Intel on Tuesday are expected to launch a joint research initiative to tackle programming for multicore processors.

The two PC industry giants sent out a media alert saying that they will host a teleconference to announce the research venture.

The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported that the venture will focus on multicore programming and that the bulk of the work will be done at the University of California at Berkeley.

The need for more research stems from the emergence of processors with two or more processing units, or cores, which have now become mainstream. With multiple cores, chip designers can boost a machine's processing muscle in a more energy-efficient way than by increasing the processor's clock speed.

But multicore technology poses significant challenge to both hardware and software providers. Without writing programs to be optimized for multicore processors, applications will not benefit from the added chip power, or could run slower than previous chips.

Both Microsoft and Intel--as well other IT companies--have made programming tools for multicore processing a high priority in terms of product development and research.

Andrew Chien, the director of Intel Research, and Tony Hey, corporate vice president of external research at Microsoft Research, are scheduled to host the media announcement.

The amount of funding for the research, which several universities bid on, will be $2 million annually for five years, according to the Journal.

A report from EE Times said that about 14 faculty members at the University of California at Berkeley lab started work on the project in late January. The researcher will focus on creating development frameworks that make it easier for programmers to parse out computing jobs so that they can be done in parallel by processors with several cores, according to the report.

Essentially, the lab is aiming to define a way to compose parallel programs based on flexible sets of standard modules in a way similar to how serial programs are written today. The challenge in the parallel world is finding a dynamic and flexible approach to schedule parallel tasks from these modules across available hardware in complex heterogeneous multi-core CPUs.

The group believes developers could create a set of perhaps a dozen frameworks that understand the intricacies of the hardware. The frameworks could be used to write modules that handle specific tasks such as solving a matrix. New run time environments could dynamically schedule the modules across available cores of various types.

More details to follow after the 10 a.m. PDT press conference on Tuesday.