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Dec 17

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

NYT and Sun on Concurrency

Two interesting stories on concurrency came past my browser this morning: NYTimes on Microsoft's concurrency efforts and Allan Packer from Sun on open source databases. The NYT piece is about Microsoft's efforts to produce multicore programming tools, which include hiring a bunch of supercomputing veterans.

“Industry has basically thrown a Hail Mary,” said David Patterson, a pioneering computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, referring to the hardware shift during a recent lecture. “The whole industry is betting on parallel computing. They’ve thrown it, but the big problem is catching it.”

The chip industry has known about the hurdles involved in moving to parallel computing for four decades. One problem is that not all computing tasks can be split among processors.

It's not a particularly deep piece, as befits the NYT's mass readership, but it's nice to see the issue getting some attention outside we early adopters. It's going to be interesting watching programs like web browsers adapt to a multicore world: can layout be distributed? Javascript? (Brendan has already said JS3's concurrency won't be threading, it'll be something more implicit)

The Sun blog post is an article posing the question Are Proprietary Databases Doomed?. The interesting part for me was the table showing how Oracle seat license costs went nonlinear with cores. The author posits this is a big push in the favour of open source software and anything else free of per-core licensing business models.

Anecdotally, some companies are finding that database licenses have become their single biggest IT cost. The impact is probably greater on small and medium-sized companies that don't have the same ability to command the hefty discounts that larger companies typically enjoy from database vendors. A colleague related a story that illustrates the issue. His brother worked for a 200-person company that decided it was time to upgrade their database applications. They set out to deploy a well-known proprietary database until they discovered that the database license fee was going to exceed their entire current annual IT budget! They ended up deploying an open source database instead.

Thanks to Simon Phipps for the pointer to Sun blog.

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Ken Williams [12.18.07 02:43 PM]

It's funny to mention Javascript, because from many companies' point of view it's *already* distributed. Our personal machines are their massive multicores.

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