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Intel acquires two software firms

Chipmaker has snapped up two companies in the last 30 days with aim of boosting development of applications that take advantage of multicore processors.

Intel has quietly snapped up two software companies in the last 30 days with aim of boosting development of applications that take better advantage of chips with more than one processing core.

In a company blog, the chipmaker indicated the acquisition of Cilk at the end of last month and then Rapidmind earlier this week. Both are small companies that employ under 50 people. The acquisitions follow the purchase of software company Wind River Systems in June.

"Over the last few years, there has been a gradual emergence of multicore microprocessors. It's put parallelism in more and more machines," James Reinders, chief evangelist and director of marketing and sales at Intel, said in a phone interview Friday, explaining why Intel bought the two firms.

"If you look at traditional applications, ones that we use everyday, it's fair to say that most are not exploiting parallelism--at least not to the full extent," Reinders said.

A multicore processor is defined as any chip with more than one processing core. Today, almost all Intel chips that go into laptops, desktops, and servers have at least two cores. The challenge for Intel is to make sure that applications take advantage of all the cores--so-called parallelism. This has historically presented a challenge for software programmers.

"The operating system does stuff for applications in parallel," Reinders said, referring to operating systems such as Windows. "But considering that we can produce more and more cores every year, to truly get the benefit of what the future holds, applications need to change. And most applications haven't changed," he said.

The goal is to facilitate the development of parallel programming. "How do we help software developers tackle parallel programming? Both companies had teams of experts that had been focused on this problem. So, they're kindred spirits," he said.

Writing about Cilk in a blog, Reinders said Intel sees "great opportunities for Cilk to integrate with our parallel tools...including Intel Parallel Studio." The firm's technology enables "mainstream programmers to develop multithreaded (or parallel) applications...Providing a smooth path to multicore for legacy (older) applications that otherwise cannot easily leverage the performance capabilities of multicore processors," according to Cilk's Web site. Original Cilk research was done at MIT.

Rapidmind was founded five years ago as Serious Hack and grew out of work at the University of Waterloo. It boasts advanced technology for helping software developers with data parallel programming for multicore processors and accelerators.

The cost of the two acquisitions was not disclosed.