Advanced computing research boosts productivity and performance

Project ParaPhrase

"Future computers will consist of thousands or even millions of processors, which poses a real problem to traditional programmers not used to thinking in parallel “said project leader Professor Kevin Hammond of the University of St. Andrews. " The sheer complexity of these systems means that powerful tools are needed to develop software that runs stably and efficiently while making the most of the ability to process in parallel. The technologies we have developed in ParaPhrase make it possible now to really exploit the power of these new systems".

The ParaPhrase approach

The ParaPhrase researchers have developed an approach that allows large parallel programs to be constructed out of standard building blocks called patterns. A refactoring tool allows these patterns to be reassembled in optimal ways without changing the functionality of the overall program. Further tools developed on the project allow the program components to be run on the system in ways that make best use of the available processors, maximising throughput and minimising run time of large programs. The tools can even adapt the program while it is running to improve performance.

Professor Hammond added, "It was important to us that our research could be directly exploited by industry and other researchers. That's why we applied ParaPhrase to several important industrial case studies during the project." Indeed, the project team has used its extensive industrial expertise to develop Use Case Scenarios in a range of application areas including industrial optimisation, scientific simulation and data mining.

Impressive output

The outputs of the project have been impressive. As well as producing over 80 publications in leading international conferences and journals and being demonstrated at over 100 international conferences and other events, the project has produced a range of new software tools and programming standards to support the growing global community in parallel programming. A Streaming Parallel Skeleton Library for the Erlang programming language has recently been made available and a new release of the FastFlow parallel programming framework has already seen thousands of downloads. Industrial partners are already applying the technology in their own operations and three recently-launched spin-out companies are set to take full commercial advantage of the technologies produced.

Already, the project partners are looking to the future. A number of follow-on projects are underway and more are in the pipeline. "ParaPhrase has been a tremendous success", says Hammond, " but significant challenges remain. In the future, parallel programs will need to self-adapt to computing architectures we haven't even thought of yet."

Project information

The project involved nine academic institutions: St. Andrews University, Robert Gordon University and Queens' University Belfast in the UK, the National College of Ireland, the University of Stuttgart in Germany, the Universities of Torino and Pisa in Italy, AGH University of Science and Technology in Poland, and Eotvos-Lorand University in Hungary. Experts from industrial partners include Erlang Solutions Ltd in the UK, Mellanox Ltd in Israel, the Software Competence Centre in Austria and ELTESoft in Hungary.