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University of St Andrews gets European funding to push the limits of C++

Highly parallel computing represents the future of IT, but data processing applications cannot be made to work efficiently in such environments

The University of St Andrews has won €3.5m in funding from the European Union as part of the RePhrase project to investigate parallel computing.

Led by Kevin Hammond, a professor at St Andrews, the project aims to tackle how to produce effective software for emerging parallel computer platforms.

It promises to increase application performance at significantly lower cost and energy consumption.

The project aims to investigate how to make data-intensive applications run on highly parallel heterogeneous computing architectures.

Improving the performance of data processing could benefit the growing number of data-intensive applications in business. However, according to the project’s website, it is harder to obtain good performance for parallel data-intensive applications than for compute- intensive applications, such as the type of applications that run on number-crunching super computers.

As Computer Weekly has previously reported, there is growing interest in alternative, functional programming languages, such as Scala, as used by William Hill, or Erlang, which is used by Bet365. These seem to be able to work well in highly parallel environments.

But the focus of the RePhrase project is on producing new software engineering tools, techniques and methodologies for developing data-intensive applications in C++, targeting heterogeneous multicore/many core systems that combine CPUs and GPUs into a coherent parallel platform.

The RePhrase project aims to tackle issues related to data management for parallel processing, including structuring the data to make it efficient to access and to process; placement, migration and replication of the data to allow fast parallel access; and ensuring data consistency.

Read more about parallel programming

"This is really exciting. I am proud to be leading such a great team. By taking on this project, St Andrews will be at the forefront of software technology," said Hammond.

"We will be able to study fundamental issues in software engineering for parallel programming and apply them to real-world problems. The potential academic and commercial impact of this work is immense."

Future computers will consist of thousands, even millions, of processors, which poses a problem to traditional programmers. The sheer complexity of these systems means powerful tools are needed to develop software that runs stably and efficiently while making the most of the ability to process in parallel.

This will help enable green computing, as well as powering the next generation of software app and major industry applications.

The RePhrase project started on 1 April 2015 and runs for three years. It is funded by the European Union as grant number 644235 under the Horizon 2020 research programme.

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