Parallel systems development eyed by Eclipse

Von Paul Krill

The Eclipse tools environment is being extended to support development of applications for large, parallel systems, an Eclipse official said at the EclipseCon 2005 conference on Tuesday.

The Eclipse Foundation"s parallel development tools project is intended to provide for more state-of-the-art development than what is being done with existing parallel tools such as vi, emax, or Fred, said Gregory Watson, parallel project lead for Eclipse. The technology is in development at Los Alamos National Lab. With this effort, Eclipse is eyeing machines that will have as many as tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of nodes, Watson said.

"You need a tool that"s going to scale to that sort of degree," he said.

Goals of Eclipse"s effort include enabling parallel developers to use the Eclipse IDE as well integrated management and testing. "This is best practice and that"s where we want to get to with the parallel tools," said Watson.

Approved by the Eclipse management organization a week ago, Watson said he is eyeing late September as the timeline for a first release of the technology.

While the project initially is intended for parallel scientific applications, Watson believes it is only a matter of time before parallel systems are extended to business deployments. "I think as parallel computers become more widely used, then it will be applicable," he said.

Requirements for Eclipse"s project include honoring existing practices; being reliable, scalable, and easy to adopt; providing core functionality; and being "future-proof," according to Watson. The project will accommodate interfacing with existing Fortran compilers, since Fortran is a popular language for developing parallel applications.

The planned parallel tools architecture from Eclipse is to feature plug-in support, a run-time model, debugging, an API, a user interface, and tools integration.

An attendee at EclipseCon said the project would be challenging.

"Just going from one processor to two processors opens up a world of issues," said Bob Frankel, chief software strategist at Texas Instruments. "What"s interesting is these folks are dealing with 10,000 processors."

Eclipse plans to use the foundation"s Rich Client Platform (RCP) technology to gear the parallel technology toward end-users. "We want to use the RCP technology to provide this environment for the end-user as well, rather than just the developer, and I think this is going to get a lot of interest," Watson said.

Future plans for the parallel project include adding advanced debugging and lightweight tools.