Multicore: New chips mean new challenges for developers

From InfoWorld: With the advent of multicore processors such as the Intel Core Duo, which is now commonplace in PCs, software developers must deal with a new wrinkle -- getting software to be processed across multiple cores -- in order to ensure the maximum performance from their software. But this is much easier said than done, with developers having to tackle issues with concurrency and potential performance bottlenecks. Already, 71 percent of organizations are developing multithreaded applications for multicore hardware, according to a recent IDC survey sponsored by tool vendor Coverity.

Developers need to get an organization-wide commitment to accommodate multicore software development, advises IDC analyst Melinda Ballou. "They need to approach this with a level of commitment to better practices organizationally and from a project perspective for quality management [and] change management as well as development," she says.

Multicore processors are becoming more prominent because single-core chips have maxed out on the heat and performance scale. Power-consumption issues also have driven development of multicore chips. Chipmakers such as Intel are adding cores to their CPUs. "Over the last 20 years of computing or longer, we've really been able to ride the wave of increased computing power through frequency scaling," says Lynne Hill, general manager of Microsoft's Parallel Computing Platform. But now, a wall (power consumption) has been hit, and hardware has to change if the processing capabilities of PCs are to increase, she says.

The hardware is in fact changing, which puts the burden on developers to adapt their applications to use it. Developers must learn new techniques and use new tools to maximize performance.

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