Friday, August 31, 2007


I have been attending an "Train The Trainer" (TTT) session at Intel in order to teach their new Parallel programming courses. An excellent week, surrounded by some real experts in the field. Several points stand out:

The "free lunch" for developers really is over, and the industry will not know what hit it. Software design and building is about to change, and it will be painful. Strangly, a programmer who had been asleep for 20 years and has suddenly awoke would not see anything new. That programmer might well be better equipped for the multi-core world than those that "kept current". Why? Because the skills practiced then will be even more important now, and the sloppy programming that has become so commonplace will no longer do the job.

Revealing comment:
The lead Intel instructor (an authority on parallel processing) was asked how people who have built everything on OO would cope with parallel processing. The answer was: "They are screwed!".

Now you might say that we have been doing multi-threading for years. Yes, but that is not parallel processing. Multi-threading is usually about splitting I/O tasks: GUI windows, overlapped comms and disk I/O are typical. Parallel processing is about splitting (decomposing) processor tasks, which is a whole new barrel of fish. At least, it is for most people.

This revolution has started, but is not yet in full flow, and won't be for a couple of years. The reason is that there is well enough work for an extra CPU with other processes, like services, and the multi-threading we have right now. The real need willl be with quad and 8 (oct?)-core processors.

Watch this space