Friday, December 2, 2005

It is now Era of Parallel Computing!

Everything is now done in parallel! AMD and Intel are pacing to get first to the market with their dual-core, quad-core or even octa-core processors, although I believe AMD won the 64bit and dual-core in the first cycle. Xbox360 which was released a few weeks ago (and still hard to find in the stores!) also use parallel processing capabilities. Sony's PS3 even will go farther by using 8 cores [well, it may not really like 8-cores in conventional processor. See].

The hardwares have come! Now it is turn for sofware developers to use this parallel computing power or not. That's the biggest concern now, especially on PC world. Many developers, many of them are making business sofwares, are still thinking parallel processing is overkill for most of softwares people use in the offices or homes. To edit documents, browsing or reading/sending emails, we do not need parallel computation. That may be true. But for power home users who do video editing, transcoding media files (e.g. from WAV to MP3 or MP3 to OGG format, or DVD to DivX/MPEG4 format), or doing 3D related processing (games, vector-based applications, CAD, raytracing etc.), parallel processing is a big deal.

Programming parallel computation is not an easy task. It is very complex and mindsqueezing task. First, we have to decompose computation process/function from serial to parallel into "grains" (the smallest part of computation that cannot be decomposed anymore) and maximize independences between each grains. Then, these grains have to be distributed to each processing unit. We need also to consider communication and processing time for each processing unit, especially if we want to load-balance the task. To make the story short, it is non-easy-at-all job for software developers.

A few weeks ago I read on some magazine (forgot, may be E-Weeks or InfoWeek), Microsoft now turning its eyes into parallel computation. In one conference, Bill Gates told the forum about it. This is a totally new world for Microsoft, as this is mostly dominated by UNIX-based Operating systems (including Linux). Even the fastest supercomputer, IBM's Bluegene, runs on a custom-tailored Linux O/S.

If you are a software developer, learn parallel programming now to grab this new job opportunity! Google, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, Sun, IBM, Nanotechnology companies, research labs, BioTech/pharmaceutical companies, game studios and many other companies are looking for the talents to start coding their parallel-processing computers/system. Remember Folding@HOME or SETI? these are a few of the parallel-programming tasks you need to master.

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