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Microsoft updating .Net for easy concurrency

Joab Jackson | May 17, 2011
Microsoft is building two new additions to its .Net framework that should make it much easier for programmers to utilize all the cores of a multicore processor.

Async is now available in a CTP (Community Technology Preview) that can run on the newest edition of Visual Studio. The download replaces the standard compiler with one that supports the new keywords.

The TPL Dataflow .Net library allows developers to break blocks of codes into what Shih called dataflow blocks. Dataflow blocks can act like agents, an instrumental concept in programming for parallel computing.

Blocks can send messages to one another in predetermined patterns. The input for one block can be the output for another. Unlike traditional programs, they do not execute synchronously. Multiple agents can run at once as long as each agent has its required input.

"This model of doing things is often referred to as data flow parallelism. In essence you are creating a computational network through which data will eventually flow," Shih said.

TPL Dataflow has a number of predefined blocks, or primitives, for handling tasks such as buffering data, broadcasting data, filtering data, joining two different flows of data, or transforming data in some way. Developers can also build their own blocks.

One session attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, noted that the concepts being previewed were "dead-on" in their attack of how to fully harness multicore processors. But he also worried that the presentation glossed over too many implementation details, which may have given attendees a false impression that running these technologies on their own systems may be easier than it actually turns out to be.

 

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