Friday, 5 February 2010

Concurrency & .NET

With each versions of the windows programming libraries, the options for concurrent programming seems to be on the rise. Gone are the days when you had to start with a plain CreateThread() Win32 call (remember setting all those security attributes?). Then came the wrappers right from CThread in MFC, TThread in VCL (a more elegant version - Delphi ruled those days).

With earlier versions of .NET, you had the Thread class, the BackgroundWorker class and highly recommended ThreadQueue class. (lets not worry about all the sync objects that came along). With multi-core machines all around, the possibilities in .NET 4.0 are endless :

a.) Parallel Extensions (PLINQ + TPL)

Integrating parallelism right into the framework design while expoiting the extension methods has made expressing concurrency easier. Had a loop that you wanted to execute in parallel? Just use the Parallel.For().
1 core? 2 core? n core? Not sure how to exploit them? Just use the framework provided by TPL (Task Parallel Library) - your applications would scale (not worrying about the internal design/syncs for the moment) based on the number of the cores. Nice. The best part is, C# language and the supporting framework structure appears to move towards the functional programming paradigm - wherein you are not worried about how to do the job but more about what to do. LINQ, TPL, Parallel-extensions etc seems to be inspired by this functional paradigm as in Haskell [my current interest area)] / F#.

Want to dig real deep with some great samples ? Check this out :

b.) Axum

A very interesting .NET programming language from the MS research yard to check out. A language built with concurrency as the primary design objective. You have 'agent's (think about a block of code being executed independently like threads) talking with each other through the 'channel's using the 'message's (think about the all sync-objects you used to get two threads to talk with each other, but easier). Very promising - you could write your core domain objects in C#, use them within Axum wherein you would ave laid out your concurrency logic.

Check out ,

c.) DirectCompute

Would like the exploit the massive processing power of your GPU? Check out the DirectCompute library. A DirectX 11/10 based framework that lets you offload tasks onto the GPU - awesome. In similar lines, also check out Brahma framework written by my ex-collegue Ananth at

Dont miss the DirectCompute session video ( which also showed some cool applications. Was amazing to see the computationally intensive job being done by the GPU while the CPU stayed at ~0% utilization !

d.) Dryad

Yet another product from the MS research aresenal, Dryad appears to be more targetted at making writing distributed applications easier. Need to check this out in detail - once I find an HPC server to do the installation, then perhaps port DES to it?

Check it out further at

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