Microsoft, Intel to Research Parallel ComputingBy Reuters | Posted 03-18-2008
Intel and Microsoft committed $20 million over the next five years to create research centers focused on parallel computing at two U.S. universities.
The two companies will work with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of California, Berkeley. Together, the two schools will contribute $15 million toward the research centers.
Parallel computing allows computers to run faster by dividing tasks over multiple microprocessors instead of using a single processor to perform one task at a time, but not many software companies know how to write software to harness this computing power.
"Parallelism is the path forward to the unprecedented levels of performance that are needed ... to keep this growth going," said Andrew Chien, director of Intel research, on a conference call to discuss the initiative.
For decades, the technology industry has been driven by the 1965 observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the computing power of chips doubles roughly every two years, in what has become known as Moore's Law.
But as Intel and the rest of the chip industry continued to crank up the speed at which their chips ran, they faced the problem of the chips producing too much heat and consuming too much power.
In response, Intel and rival AMD moved earlier this decade to start making chips that have multiple cores, or brains, in a sort of precursor to parallel computing.
Parallel computing has been hyped for years as the next big thing in technology, but the time has come, Microsoft, Intel and the universities said, to make it a reality.
It could lead to major advances in robotics or software that could translate documents in real time in multiple languages, for example, or a digital personal health care assistant.
"We're really in the midst of a revolution in the computing industry," said Tony Hey, executive vice president of external research at Microsoft Research, "and it really will profoundly affect the way we develop software" for supercomputers, server computers that form the backbone of corporate networks, desktop and laptop computers, as well as, ultimately, handheld devices.
The Universal Parallel Computing Research Centers at the two universities will include more than 100 faculty, graduate students, researchers and postdoctoral researchers.