20 Comments

Summary:

(wi

You wouldn’t think that next year’s DreamWorks movie, “Aliens vs. Monsters” and the search for more crude would be connected, but they are — in that they both take advantage of parallel programming for multicore chips. And when it comes to multicore chips, big bucks are on the line as the chip firm or software company that figures out how to write code to take advantage of them stands to make boatloads of money.

DreamWorks signed a deal with Intel this week aimed at parallelizing some of its code running on multicore chips to enable 3-D imaging for the 2009 animated movie. It’s not the first company to work with Intel to get more out of the multiple cores now embedded in servers, but it’s a nice example of how Intel is pushing its multicore efforts beyond simply throwing a bunch of chips at a computing bottleneck.

Like other chip firms, Intel knows that to keep compute power on the rise (and customers happy) it has to not only make the hardware more powerful with multicore chips, but also teach programmers how to use them. Otherwise, multicore chips don’t reach their full potential. James Reinders, director of marketing for Intel’s developer products division, pointed out that much of the work Intel was doing with regard to multicore, including investing in software research, selling tools to make parallel programming less cumbersome and participating in standards bodies, was done to deliver more computing power — something that can no longer be done efficiently by increasing clock speeds or adding even more cores.

“Every generation of hardware offers new capabilities, and we have rewritten our software to take advantage of it over time,” Reinders said. “Multicore will inspire us to do the same thing, but it won’t be overnight.”

It’s possible that the chip companies will be the vanguards of a new style of programming, much like programmers had to learn how to program for the web, graphical user interfaces or even e-commerce applications. Paula Richards, director of IBM’s Cell systems business thinks so. The Cell processor, designed for the Playstation 3, contains nine cores and also performs better if you adapt the code to take advantage of it.

So far IBM has focused on selling the Cell processor into financial firms, hospitals, and oil companies like Spain’s Reposal Repsol, which it inked a deal with last week. Richards said IBM doesn’t just dump that hardware and run — it spends time working with clients in each vertical to build software development kits the customer can use to get the most out of the processor. Those kits work with Intel and AMD multicore chips as well, although Richards says a user won’t see the same level of improvement they would using Cell processors.

“We knew multicore was a major inflection point in the industry,” Richards told me. “Everybody realized this and the company that addresses the [ease of programming] for this technology will win.” In some ways it’s not only about making it easy, it’s about attracting the hearts and minds of developers to a certain way of coding. That’s why IBM is offering SDKs to students who want to write parallel code on their PlayStations and Intel is pushing an undergraduate curriculum for parallel programming. This is a hardware battle fought using software.

image courtesy of DreamWorks

  1. That’s might be a good teamwork.

    Share
  2. the name of the spanish company is repsol not reposal

    Share
  3. Stacey Higginbotham Friday, July 11, 2008

    Fede, thanks. Fixed.

    Share
  4. Multicore programming is a fairly specialized kind of programming involving the OS kernel, graphics/audio drivers/subsystems, GPUs and threads. Creating the 3D platform is a distinct effort from, writing applications that use the 3D apis and underlying software plumbing needed to make 3D fly.

    Semiconductor companies, especially Intel, are notoriously poor software architects and software implementers. Intel management might PR alot about multicores, but all their margins come from Chip wins and placements.

    I’ll hold my breath.. on this effort… i have very low expectations unless Intel completely outsources this work to someone that knows what they are doing.

    Share
  5. [...] How DreamWorks Puts Multicore Chips to Work – Gigaom.comYou wouldn t think that next year s DreamWorks movie, Aliens vs. Monsters and the search for more crude would be connected, but they are in that they both take advantage of parallel programming for multicore chips. And when it comes to [...]

    Share
  6. I wonder if they will be using NVDA technology in the future?

    Share
  7. [...] In this case it’s C++. IBM, Intel, Nvidia and even Apple are all focused on varying ways to easily develop for multicore chips, but there is plenty of room for a small company with good tools to excel. Cilk, which is based in [...]

    Share
  8. [...] will be produced for 3-D production beginning in 2009 is the next step in a partnership with Intel that began on the processing side and aims to end up making 3-D a reality in the living room. The news really just adds the [...]

    Share
  9. [...] The Cray CX1 computer launched today, with specs that include either 32 or 64 Intel cores and 4 terabytes of internal storage. The new machine, which runs a new version of Microsoft Windows, is a testament to both the demand for and the democratization of computing power. Indeed, people who earlier might have turned to grids or supercomputers for their problems are building powerful desktops with accelerator chips, while less scientifically minded folks, such as traders or product designers, who want to render things in 3-D are seeking more processing power. [...]

    Share
  10. [...] When IBM teamed up with Sony and Toshiba in 2000 to build this nine-core semiconductor, the goal was to make a fast chip that took advantage of parallel processing to display awesome graphics. In the middle of 2005, when IBM started pushing the Cell processor for data center applications, too, analysts scoffed, saying there were few programs out there to take advantage of the multicore architecture. Yet today, multicore chips are in everything from servers and desktops to routers, and firms from Intel to Microsoft are addressing the programming problems. [...]

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post