Ottawa ISV seeks to ease transition from x86 to Core Duo

SAN FRANCISCO — An Ottawa-based software vendor is trying to help application developers migrate from x86 architectures to dual-core technology, the next generation of microprocessing.

QNX, which develops an operating system that’s targeted at the embedded space for use on communications equipment such as switches, routers and optical gear, is running its OS on Intel’s latest Core Duo technology, giving it enhanced parallelism and concurrency features compared to single-core processing. Last month, QNX announced its support for Intel Core Duo processors T2500 and L2400 and for the Mobile Intel 945GM Express chipset. As hardware vendors gear up to move from single-core to dual-core platforms, software vendors need to keep pace, said a QNX spokesperson.

“Developers need the software infrastructure to make the switch from processors like traditional x86 single-core processors to be able to program efficiently and effectively on dual and multi-core processors,” said Romain Saha, netcom segment manager, QNX.

On Wednesday at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) conference here, Intel talked about the work it is doing with the independent software vendor (ISV) community to help them develop software applications to run on multi-core systems. For example, Intel announced that it is adding the Woodcrest cluster to its Intel Software Network Web portal, where ISVs can download tools and build their environments. Intel is also providing hardware to ISVs through its Early Access Program to allow them to tune their software to various platforms.

“We’ve grown to realize that customers are not after CPUs, they care about a solution and they want that solution to work,” said Richard Wirt, vice-president and general manager of the Software and Solutions Group, Intel. “It takes working with the ISV community so they can build value on top of that platform.”

While ISVs are a key player in helping Intel grow adoption rates for dual core, industry expert Simon Yates said Intel faces some challenges with the way it markets the technology to the enterprise.

“It’s a soft gain,” said Yates, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., who covers the PC/client market. “It’s hard to articulate the true value of it.”

Intel must also battle the enterprise’s resistance to change and increasing the amount of complexity in their IT environments such as manageability of single and dual core systems, Yates added. The big gain for enterprises with this new technology on the client side will be improving system performance, which can save them money on energy expenses.

“Performance per watt is an increa

At the conference on Tuesday, Intel’s Pat Gelsinger, senior vice-president and general manager of the Digital Enterprise Group, talked about the chipmaker’s partnerships with third-party vendors like VMware and Microsoft on its Active Management and Virtualization initiatives.

In terms of developer tools, Intel offers a suite of products that help developers take their applications and tailor them to take advantage of multi-threading processing. VTune, for example, is an analyzing tool that lets developers see where they’re spending their time in the code.

“Operating systems today are ready for multi-threading,” Wirt told developers. “But if you want to unlock the potential you need to parallelize and thread your application.”

QNX has developed a toolset called Neutrino Multi-Core Technology Development Kit to help application developers leverage the power of multi-core processors and speed up their time to market with their products.

“All of the threads and the interactions between the threads are graphically represented,” said Saha. “This provides the developer with the ability to fine tune their application to extract the maximum performance from the multi-core system.”

Other ISVs like Pixar, which is best known for its digitally-animated films such as Toy Story and its upcoming release, Cars, have already started to develop software based on multi-core systems. Intel brought Greg Brandeau, vice-presdient of technology, Pixar, on the stage Wednesday to talk about its work on the latest version of RenderMan, Pixar’s application used by Pixar and other animation companies.

“From Toy Story to Cars, the frames have taken the same amount of time, which is eight hours,” said Brandeau. “The frames look better because with more compute power we can put more objects in the frame and more special effects and each frame looks more realistic.”

RenderMan 13 is currently in beta testing with a more finalized version expected in a month or two.

Developers also got a first-hand look at Intel’s quad-core processor, codenamed Clovertown, which was running the keynote’s Power Point presentation. Clovertown is compatible with the Bensley platform and is slated to ship in early 2007.


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