by Chris Wadsworth
Portable Software Tools for Parallel Architectures (PSTPA) is a five-year, £2.5M programme of collaborative research funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 15 projects have recently been started using the funds available.
Despite the forecast demand for the high performance computing power of parallel machines, the fact remains that programming such machines is still an intellectually demanding task. While there have been some significant recent advances (e.g. the evolution and widespread adoption of the PVM and MPI message passing standards, and the development of High Performance Fortran), there remains an urgent need for a greater understanding of the fundamentals, methods, and methodology of parallel software development to support a broad application base and to engender the next generation of parallel software tools.
The PSTPA programme seeks in particular:
Programme-wide objectives include:
A long term goal is to hide the details of parallelism from the user, and this programme also aims to address this. In the short term, however, it is necessary to provide tools which facilitate the exploitation of parallelism explicitly at an appropriate level for the community of application programmers. These tools will help in the expression, modelling, measurement, and management of parallel programs, as much as possible in a portable fashion.
The PSTPA Programme is complementary to an existing UK Parallel Applications Programme which has been running since 1991 through four Centres at Edinburgh, London, Oxford, and Southampton. That programme, with £13M of UK government funding and matching contributions from industry, fosters applications projects exploring the adoption of parallel technology on industrial problems. Both ports of existing packages and new parallel applications have been undertaken. The results of that programme, together with others worldwide, sharpen the requirements for portable software tools which the PSTPA programme will address.
The scope of the PSTPA programme thus covers the spectrum from research in parallel programming methods to developments of generic tools including application generators. The results will stimulate and assist parallel applications development, however large scale applications development per se are outside the scope of the programme.