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SD West Goes Parallel--or Tell Me What You Really Think

December 22, 2008

Pollsters and telemarketers love me—when they can get me on the phone, that is. After working a series of customer service-related jobs early in my work life (ah, McDonald's), I’ve been unable to simply hang up on these folks. Caller ID helps me surmount my empathy, but curiosity sometimes gets the best of me. In the past year, I’ve offered my opinion on local propositions, presidential politics and my favorite brand of toothpaste—and told poor “Mike” (a.k.a. Anil) that we really don’t want Dish Network’s South Asian package.

Not everyone’s like me, however. Most have no qualms about hanging up on a telemarketer, and people generally only provide feedback when something’s really gone awry. That’s why I’m constantly amazed at the amount of feedback we receive each year from our attendees. Whether it’s the post-conference attendee survey or the individual course evaluations, participants not only consistently check off those ratings boxes, but take the time to write detailed and helpful comments. The write-in comments from last year’s SD West survey filled 28 pages when I converted it to Word, and that’s 28 pages of advice, questions and ideas on keynote speakers, current technology, real-world development problems and more.

You Asked for It

The advisory board and I take those comments to heart—and in fact many of those ideas become courses, if not entire tracks, at the next conference. Skeptical? Well, here’s just one example from the SD West2008 survey.

Please, please, please, can you have more tutorials and session on parallel programming/concurrency—especially for C++? It’s the elephant in the room that was tackled during two keynote sessions this year (Bjarne Stroustrup and Intel’s James Reinders), but then almost completely ignored by the conference sessions.”

Parallel computing and concurrency have been a hot topic of conversation during our board meetings in prior years. After all parallelism isn’t new; there are articles from the early ’90s referencing the topic on drdobbs.com. What’s different is that parallel computing is no longer simply found in the academic realm. Sure grid-computing projects like [email protected] or IBM’s chess-playing supercomputer Big Blue are examples of this technology at work, but parallel computing has become essential in fields like finance and economics (Monte Carlo simulations, for example), in game development, bioinformatics and much more. As “many-core” machines become commonplace—servers with 64 processor cores are expected by 2009, with desktops following a few years later—and parallel computing continues to grow in importance outside research labs, the need for software developers skilled in the subject will become acute.

And, as Java Track Chair Paul Tyma puts it, “This stuff is cool. I'm probably biased, but I love the concurrency stuff. And new languages [Clojure, etc.] are emerging to give us new ways to program concurrently.”

Thanks to you, the attendees, and folks like Paul, you’ll find top-notch training on the entire parallel computing ecosystem at SD West 2009. And since many of these courses can be found across multiple tracks, here’s a handy list of our favorites:




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