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Anticipating the Fall

by Addison Snell
for Intersect360 Research (originally published under the Tabor Research name)
Jun 1, 2008

as published in HPCWire

Anticipating the Fall: Application Performance Has Chased Multicore's Speed Right Over a Cliff

Wile E. Coyote is doomed. Hanging in space, he is about to fall, and everyone knows it but him. We all saw it coming. Poor Coyote.

Yet strangely, he doesn't fall right away. According to the alternate-reality rules of cartoon physics, the Coyote must first look down and realize he is standing in thin air. He then has time to gather his thoughts, issue a final desperate wave, and then finally -- poof! -- he plummets body first, leaving his head in the frame for the viewers to witness a comical last-second grimace before that too disappears.

Know what else we saw coming? The crash in HPC application performance that is being brought about by the transition to multicore processors. We've been watching the race, as applications (Codus productivus) desperately chased processors (Waferii siliconium) up the performance mountain. Suddenly multicore came and -- meep! meep! -- the CPUs put on a burst of speed and zoomed around a bend, leaving application software headed for a cliff. HPC users were doomed. Everyone knew it. Poor users.

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