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For supercomputers, debugging is all 'relative'

Cray licenses debugging software from Down Under.


Supercomputers need super, or at least novel, debugging.

To meet that need, Cray has just agreed to license Australian software start-up Guardsoft's "relative" debugging technology for use in its new DARPA-funded supercomputer.

Relative debugging allows programmers to track bugs that creep into software as it is modified, or ported from one system to another, according to Guardsoft. It does this by comparing the execution of a suspect program with a clean version. This differs from traditional debugging in two ways: First, it compares program variables not with the user's expectations but with another program known to be correct; second, the process can be automated.

"Relative debugging is orders of magnitude faster than existing approaches because the programmer doesn't have to understand all the details of the code," said Professor David Abramson of Monash University where the technology was developed. "This is particularly valuable when the person performing the debugging is not the original developer."

The new software is called Guard and can be used on a number of platforms, including Linux, IBM's Eclipse, and Microsoft Visual Studio. Cray will use it to help application developers port existing programs into its new supercomputers.

This is all part of DARPA's $250 million effort to develop a High Productivity Computing System, which it hopes will provide a new generation of systems for national security and industrial users. You can find everything you ever wanted to know about relative debugging here.