SequenceL language takes the pain out of multicore coding

Project eliminates many steps in multicore programming, allowing developers to write to C++ and automatically distribute to any number of cores

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InfoWorld: How much of an issue is multicore programming these days? Is it still a major issue, or do developers have it under control?

Norton: I can tell you it's still a very major issue. We have a slide I could pop up. It talks about the eight simple steps to creating parallel code from Dr. Dobbs of Intel, and it is pretty horrible. SequenceL eliminates all of that, and it's the only thing out there that eliminates it.

InfoWorld: What are some of the steps?

Norton: First, the programmer [manually] would have to identify all the truly independent computations, then have to plan early for the scalability because cores are going to keep increasing, and they have to basically have a good understanding of their target hardware to do that. They have to use the right threading models, and they have to keep refactoring their algorithms and changing them as they see different things take effect across cores. It's a very manual and kind of a dangerous process.

InfoWorld: Are there other languages that are specifically designed for multicore programming?

Norton: There really aren't. There's been some Band-Aid [approaches] that have been put onto existing languages like different libraries. We need a language-based approach because the problem with libraries is if you use that library 100 percent of the time, then great. But very few programs use one or two libraries all the time. There's a lot of other code. If you parallelize half of your application you can never run more than twice as fast because the other half is going to be waiting. You have to parallelize much more, and that's why a language-based approach like SequenceL is the right answer.

InfoWorld: What type of applications have been written with SequenceL?

Norton: It's been applied to wireless mesh networking. It's been applied to oil and gas. It's been applied to image processing, both military and commercial. It's been applied to hearing aid audio algorithms. It's been applied to a new kind of algebra-based database.

InfoWorld: What about standard business applications? Would it work for that?

Norton: Absolutely. It's very general purpose. Anything that needs computational performance benefits from it greatly. But even if you don't want performance, what we often find [with] our customers on the business side, is the time-to-market advantages and the quality [are beneficial]

InfoWorld: How many users do you have at this point?

Norton: We've got a handful of large companies. It's been a very rifle-shot, kind of sniper-shot model to go after some very large companies and what we think are some good industries, then start to grow from there.

InfoWorld: What version are you on of the language right now?

Norton: We're about to release 1.2 of the product, of the tool chain. The language itself hasn't really changed in five years. The work has been done to the tool chain, and the compiler and the runtime have been the predominant development efforts. [Tools are] all under the SequenceL banner. [Version] 1.2 includes the IDEs, which is plug-ins for either Eclipse or Visual Studio for Microsoft.

InfoWorld: You didn't have Eclipse or Visual Studio plug-ins before?

Norton: We didn't have them until about a year ago. That was one of the biggest holdups. We didn't want to release the product to the market without the IDE plug-ins. And that includes, in the case of Eclipse right now, our own debugger that's about functionally, the language. We're working to get that in Visual Studio, but we are hitting some technical difficulties working it through with Microsoft. But it will be in Visual Studio eventually.

InfoWorld: What are the technical difficulties?

Norton: It's just Microsoft now has F# out. They now have a functional language. Visual Studio isn't as plug-in friendly as Eclipse. It's a little bit closed, and they don't really do much with functional languages yet. We're having to educate them a little bit on that.

This story, "SequenceL language takes the pain out of multicore coding," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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