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Microsoft Pushes Parallel Programming For The Masses

Darryl K. Taft covers IBM, big data and a number of other topics for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

Parallelising data will be easy enough for ordinary programmers, according to speakers at Microsoft’s PDC

Microsoft is planning to deliver parallel programming to the masses, using data parallelism, a conference has heard.

The company is attacking the issue of parallel computing or concurrency on a number of levels, including at the language level, the runtime level and the operating system level, S. “Soma” Somasegar, senior vice president of Microsoft Developer Division, said in an interview with eWEEK at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles.

“Parallel” and “data” appear to be two of the most frequently used terms at this PDC, and Somasegar said Microsoft has an emerging effort to pursue “data parallelism,” also known as loop-level parallelism- is a form of parallelisation of computing across multiple processors in parallel computing environments.

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“We are grappling with something called data parallelism,” Somasegar said. “We think parallel programming is great, a lot of programming today deals with data. The more we can think about what data parallelism looks like, the more we think we can execute effectively on that. So one of the things we have in the parallel programming world and partnering with the C++ guys is looking at whether there are extensions that we should do that enable data parallelism.”

Somasegar explained that if a developer is going to do any kind of operation on data, either they can do it sequentially or they can do it in parallel. Mostly today it happens in a sequential way. “So you are limited by how fast you can go through a particular data access in a sequential way,” he said. “But if you have a large data set and you can partition the data set into half a dozen data sets or a dozen data sets and you can do some operations in parallel, you can do it that much faster.”

Data as a service gets attention

Microsoft focused a lot on the increasing need for programmers to interact more directly with data. The company announced a new effort known by the codename “Dallas,” which is an effort to deliver a data-as-a-service solution. Both SQL Azure and the new SQL Server Modeling Services offerings – ways for developers to get closely involved with data – demanded much attention at sessions and meetings at the PDC.

“You cannot talk to a developer today who doesn’t need access to data,” Somasegar said. “You cannot see an application that doesn’t have some involvement with data. We used to view programming as programming and data as data. But with the release of LINQ {Language Integrated Query] a few years ago, that was an attempt to get these two islands to be more integrated. Whether you are thinking about cloud, whether you’re thinking about on-premises on the back end, or whether you’re thinking about the front-end with a client, you really need to think about what your data access story looks like. So it’s a natural evolution, but probably one that is a little late in coming for the world at large.”