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Microsoft trying to make sense of multicore

Software maker to set up research center in Spain, with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, to explore "challenges and opportunities coming with multicore processors."

From a marketing perspective, multicore processors are an easy sell. Two brains are better than one. Four brains are better than two. You get the idea.

The challenge is that a whole lot of computer software has been designed to take advantage of ever-faster brains, not a computer packed full of them. It's a particular challenge for desktop and mobile computers. On the server and supercomputing side, the notion of parallel computing has been around for some time.

In the PC world, software makers have been scrambling to find new ways of thinking as Moore's law is quickly taking the chip world into a realm where there may be dozens or hundreds of processing units, or cores, on a single chip. In its latest attempt to figure out what to do with all those cores, Microsoft said Friday it is setting up a joint research center in Barcelona with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center.

The BSC-Microsoft research center "will focus on the way microprocessors and software for the mobile and desktop market segments will be designed and interact over the next 10 years and beyond," Microsoft said in a statement. "The advent of many- and multi-core processor computing architectures will make it possible to deliver enormous computational power on a single chip, with profound implications for the way software is developed."

The center will look at new approaches to software design.

"To optimize the designs and interactions of multicore processors and software, we need to start from parallel programming," Barcelona Supercomputing Center director Mateo Valero said in a statement. "The way to deal with this multicore architecture challenge is to bring together computer architects and programming language experts."