Losing The Pringles/Mountain Dew Arms Race

The days of the importance of a single core processor's speed alone seem to be over. With major manufacturers already able to put up to 80 cores on one chip, the consensus is that multicore is where it's at going forward. There's a problem, of course. Nobody knows how to program the things properly to use the digital horsepower already available, and seem unlikely to be able to handle the even more complex cores coming down the pike. 

Mark Lewin, program manager in External Research & Programs for Microsoft Research, said the solution will require more than inventing new programming languages as developers need to invent entirely new ways to build software.

"It will take a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of rethinking, but the opportunity is huge," said Lewin, whose group this week announced a $500,000 grant program for universities with innovative proposals for studying software development for multicore computing.

In a speech in May, Craig Mundie, Microsoft Corp.'s chief research and strategy officer, declared that "the free lunch to some extent is over" for software companies that have counted on chips going faster and faster. He said Microsoft researchers have been focused over the past five years on this so-called parallel computing, or tasks being performed at the same time on multiple processors.

Computer chips can already handle the average computer program's instructions faster than the operator can key them in.  There seems to be no point in waiting around for a Pentium 150 to run your PC. So software engineers: Get busy; we've got all these cores laying around with nothing to do.
Tags:  ARM, MS, OS, RMS, AC, TAI, AI, AR