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By | Ashlee Vance 27th March 2007 18:10

Start-up goes mad over Windows app for multi-core chips

PeakStream's beta love for Redmond

Software start-up Peakstream has fired up a Windows beta of its code meant to make programming for a wide variety of multi-core processors as easy as, well, programming for single-core chips.

Coupling the phrases “software start-up” and “beta program” does not usually end in much excitement. In Peakstream's case, however, you're going to find some pretty cutting edge technology with a fair amount of potential.

The beta version of PeakStream Workstation for Microsoft Windows serves the same function as its existing Linux counterpart. Developers can use the PeakStream software to craft their own applications for mainstream multi-core chips and the oncoming wave of specialized mutli-core chips such as the Cell processor or GPGPUs (general purpose GPU). PeakStream's main claim to fame in this field is that it removes some of the coding headaches developers face as they approach more demanding chip hardware.

So far, the company has zeroed in on the high performance computing (HPC) market and is trying to convince the HPC crowd that using the PeakStream Platform is a better option moving forward than trying to write homegrown multi-threaded code.

“We give developers full multi-core performance without forcing them to resort to threaded programming,” said PeakStream VP Michael Mullany. “In addition, we don't force developers to alter their existing skills and tools.”

With the new Microsoft-ready software, developers will see a number of Math libraries in C/C++, an optimizing runtime and some Visual Studio 2005 tool extensions to help with creating code for multi-core CPUs. The PeakStream software “offers a high-level API that insulates code from low-level hardware details and ensures portability to future hardware platforms without recoding.”

PeakStream does confess to a “couple of per cent overhead performance hit” as a result of code going through its runtime virtual machine.

The company, however, claims that the gains from developing code quickly and with less hassle outweigh the performance concerns, particularly for non-rocket scientists at, say, a financial institution, who are trying to hammer out new applications.

You can have a look at the new beta here. ®

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