UPCRC Multi-core programming school @ UIUC

UPCRC Multi-core programming school @ UIUC

One line summary: The UPCRC multi-core programming school was very intense in a good way.

The Material

We eased into things with a basic intro to parallel computing Monday afternoon. Tuesday-Thursday were all very fast paced. We had lecture from 0845-Noon and then again from 1PM to 2PM. At 2PM they would do an overview and introduction of practical labs that corresponded to the days lecture materials.

There were always more labs to choose from than you could complete in a day. So, it was up to the student to pick the labs which they thought would be most beneficial to them. We had lab time between 2:30PM and 5:30PM. During this lab time the lecturers from the day were available. We had a forced 🙂 supper break from 5:30PM-6:15PM. The lab and lecture area were locked up during this time. The lab reopened at 6:15PM and closed at 10:00PM. During this time frame knowledgeable GTA/GRAs were available to answer questions.

I was already somewhat familiar with Java explicit threading so there weren't any surprises there.

OpenMP was probably the easiest to work with and use. It uses pragmas with C++. Visual Studio 2010 has out of the box support for OpenMP.

Intel TBB took some work, but it is more powerful/flexible than OpenMP.

.Net Parallel LINQ (PLINQ) and the Task Parallel Library (TPL) were interesting. It was interesting to work to apply lessons from here in a previous .Net project that does everything in a serial way. It reminded me that we need to make special considerations when ordering is important. Also, you really need to know and understand lambda expressions.

The OpenCL material was by far the hardest. It was difficult in terms of the steps to set up the code and in debugging/figuring out what was going wrong. I was able to complete a Matrix Multiply lab. However, it took about 5 hours. From what I gather only one or two other people completed that lab.

We had a two hour lecture on Thursday regarding vectorizing code. It was very intense and very interesting. I feel like the professor probably covered two weeks of graduate material in those two hours! It was helpful to learn about dependences and how loops could be unrolled or how loops could be changed to allow the compiler to do more optimizing. I need to review the slides and notes from this lecture.  As I recall we covered 48 slides in each of the one hour sessions.

My overall impression is that it is much easier to work with multi-core CPUs than GPUs. The other I noted that there seems to be more focus/maturity in C/C++ support. I'm sure that will change as the SDKs mature.

We wrapped up Friday with a look at an Intel analysis tool and overview of what had been covered and what had not been covered.

Blue Waters

Friday before lunch we toured the future home of the IBM Blue Waters/NCSA facility. It is simply huge. They had what appeared to be many servers in place, but they were actually the power distribution centers! The first floor of the building is all mechanical infrastructure. The building is also set up to be secure facility with swipe cards, PIN entry, retinal scanning and even a "bell" that you are locked in and weighed in.

Summer School Environment

The building facilities, labs, lecture room (power on top of the table at all spots), meals and snacks were all excellent.  The building architecture itself was interesting.  There were many areas inside and outside of the building where you could sit and work.  They also had areas on every floor with seating and whiteboards.


Instructors were enthusiastic about the material and were open to questions. It was great that they helped in the labs and were available for questions that were related to the material yet unrelated to the labs. If you had a question about how something they covered might relate to your research they were interested in talking with you and discussing it.

Assistants were knowledgeable and helpful with the lab environment and the labs too.

Staff kept everything running smooth and on time.  They also managed to arrange for good meals and snacks.

The school was also an awesome opportunity to talk with other students from around the world that are interested in this aspect of programming. It was neat to hear the varied application areas that were being considered.


Overall, a great experience.


Something I may consider for next year is another school that they offer: