IBM: The GHz horserace is wrapping up; the new frontier is parallelism

In something of an update to this story: Elite 'power' developers' S.W.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor

In something of an update to this story: Elite 'power' developers' S.W.A.T. Special Weapons And Tactics, I spoke this week with IBM's Scott Searle who is program director for enterprise modernisation to discuss IBM AIX, compilers, threading and the world according to the latest IBM POWER Systems.

Searle is known for speaking on how enterprise modernisation (as IBM defines it) is not just about working with mainframe systems. He includes ANY technology for which support and expertise has elapsed or become lost in the clutter and complexity of today's complex enterprise computing environment.

With that in mind I followed up on this story with him to ask him what aspects of the current themes he found most interesting.

"IBM's new hardware capabilities take developers from 4 cores and 2 threads up to 8 cores and 4 threads. Although existing applications can still run without recompilation or modification, they will not be able to take 'full' advantage of the advanced features of new POWER7 systems without rebuilding them with the latest compilation technologies. Only then, you will we see a real boost in performance. You can also take full advantage of multicore architecture with the latest compilers. So for example, in a generational change that provides an overall 50% performance increase, we would expect at least 20 points of that increase to come from compilers," said Searle.

For Searle, he is happy to state that the gigahertz horse race is wrapping up - and the new frontier is parallelism.

The developer's dilemma is that they need to learn new skills to work at this level in the systems they are architecting to realise the full potential of new processing technologies. Developers need to learn multicore skills and leverage advanced compilation technology to help them to become more productive. It will be up to companies like IBM to teach them those skills.

“At the rate that multicore technology is advancing, we can buy them five years with compilers, after that applications may need to be rewritten," added Searle.

Searle noted that in some senses compilers alone are not the entire solution for developers, but that other Rational development tools like Rational Developer for Power, and Rational Team Concert for Power, increase productivity and collaboration opportunities in this space.

When developing business processes that involve working across different platforms, there is a huge advantage to being able to use the same tooling interface that will help highlight and manage dependencies, track risk factors and assure standardisation and compliance. Rational Developer for Power and Rational Team Concert for Power are the first AIX versions of this collaborative development environment.

Rational Team Concert is based on IBM Jazz collaborative technology and integrates with other Jazz products like IBM Quality Manager and Rational Requirements Composer to create what IBM would like to describe as an ideal implementation development environment.

Searle urges developers to look at IBM's IBM's Enterprise Modernization Sandbox offering, "This is a is sandbox for developers to explore – for the mainframe there are 20 scripted scenarios (and for POWER there are about 10)… this is almost like a proof of concept laboratory… in 3 or 4 hours a customer can learn a lot in terms of development tools and their practical usage," said Searle.

So anyway thanks Scott, I always enjoy a good IBM developer story/ramble – sorry about all the uses of "s" in my comments, but I did allow one "z" into modernization at the end. Roll on summer 2010 and IBM's developer symposium newly renamed Innovate 2010 – if I get down there I promise to attend sessions and not spend all my time in the sake bar at EPCOT Japan OK?

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