SAN JOSE, Calif. Intel and Microsoft will help fund a new Parallel Computing Lab at the University of California at Berkeley. The effort hopes to take a leading role in the scramble to define a parallel programming model that will serve the multicore computer processors already on the drawing board.
As many as 20 universities--including MIT, Stanford and the University of Illinois--competed for the funding. According to one source, the Wintel grant is for about $2 million a year over five years
Details of the deal have not yet been released by the companies. But about 14 faculty members will work in the new Berkeley lab that quietly started operation on Jan. 21.
The grant is a sign of how the computer industry is shifting into high gear to help software catch up with advances in microprocessor design.
Both Advanced Micro Devices and Intel have said they will ship processors using a mix of x86 and graphics cores as early as next year, with core counts quickly rising to eight or more per chip. But software developers are still stuck with a mainly serial programming model that cannot easily take advantage of the new hardware.
"The industry is in a little bit of a panic about how to program multi-core processors, especially heterogeneous ones," said Chuck Moore, a senior fellow at Advanced Micro Devices trying to rally support for work in the area. "To make effective use of multi-core hardware today you need a PhD in computer science. That can't continue if we want to enable heterogeneous CPUs," he said.
The Berkeley lab got its start in February 2005 with a series of weekly talks on the issue. In December 2006, researchers published a white paper detailing thoughts from those discussions.
A team of researchers has already started prototyping software systems based on ideas the group has fleshed out. They could publish preliminary results in a matter of months.