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PDC: Pushing Parallel

Lost amid all the sturm und drang of the Windows Azure launch and Windows 7 preview and Visual Studio 2010 CTP is a rather intriguing tale about Microsoft's effort to introduce and support parallel programming across both the native C++ and .NET dev stacks. Not so ironically, as it turns out, Microsoft is getting very busy with parallel.

On the one side is Lynne Hill's Parallel Computing Platform organization, which is tasked with infusing parallelism into the .NET stack and providing a means for .NET developers to enable concurrency in their managed code projects using familiar languages like C# and VB.NET.

This stuff is happening already, Hill pointed out. The F# functional programming language provides for parallelism through its declarative, side-effect-free nature, while LINQ and parallel LINQ (pLINQ) enable queries to be run in parallel. The Visual Studio 2010 CTP provides parallelism support, including a profiler for assessing how existing applications might be adapted for concurrent operation.

Hill provides a measured, thoughtful and strategic approach to parallelism, one that will no doubt merge well with the growing list of capabilities in the .NET stack.

On the other side are Tandy Trower and George Chrysanthakopoulos from the Microsoft Robotics Group. As GM of the Robotics Group, Trower said he inherited from Craig Mundie an intriguing incubation project, which has emerged today as the Decentralized Software Services (DSS) and the Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR) technologies. Engineered by Partner Software Architect Chrysanthakopoulos, DSS and CCR have emerged as an attractive parallelism solution for enterprise customers like Siemens and Tyco.

The CCR and DSS technologies will eventually end up in the .NET stack. But for the time being, a growing list of enterprise customers are turning to this point solution to enable massively parallel code infrastructures.

It's not the first time that Microsoft has delivered multiple technologies and approaches to a single problem, and no doubt it will not be the last. What's remarkable is just how different the approaches are. Chrysanthakopoulos and Trower couldn't help but laugh when I characterized them as guerilla developers, wearing camouflage and face paint as they worked their way through the high grass toward their goal.

"We're not in Dev Div, we're a very small group," Chrysanthakopoulos said. "We're always kind of in the back corner, but we knew it was a solid model. And we also knew that if we go out there and we become public at least in one market, people will see the power of this thing and they did. Now we have things like Siemens and Tyco and some other really big names I can't talk about yet that really are doing stuff at a scale that, with most Microsoft products, we don't advertise at that scale."

Expect to hear more about Microsoft's parallelism efforts this week and in our Nov. 15 issue. Are you looking hard to parallelize your existing code? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/30/2008

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