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PeakStream Platform on Performance Duty

High-performance computing software startup PeakStream introduced its platform for helping developers program multi-core chips, graphics processor units (GPUs) and Cell processors to boost application performance.

Improving application performance is in huge demand in markets such as financial services, national defense, pharmaceutical and academic research, where calculations often need to be blazing fast to solve complex problems with multiple variables.

The PeakStream Platform employs a "stream programming" model, a data parallel approach to programming used for the distributed memories of newfangled multi-core chips from the likes of Intel  and AMD .

PeakStream in fact recommends customers use servers or workstations powered by AMD Opteron or Intel chips with a supported GPU from graphics specialists such as Nvidia  or AMD's ATI Fusion unit.

Gartner analyst Carl Claunch noted that while coupling different processing hardware together into a heterogeneous system is not new, it has been confined to research projects or custom systems rather than in products.

PeakStream aims to change that, using a Virtual Machine hypervisor to leverage the processing power housed in graphics cards or other types of hardware such as Cell processors.

Because writing programs for GPU, multi-core or Cell processors isn't easy, even for accomplished developers, the PeakStream Platform uses an application programming interface (API)  with C and C++ bindings to specify the programs for the specialized hardware.

"This will be a niche, but an interesting niche of high value when the conditions and problems of a prospective customer are a good fit for the way this system works," Claunch said.

PeakStream is offering its platform in a Workstation Edition for single-user application development, and in a Server Edition for cluster computing configurations.

Pricing starts at $2,000 per node but the company will offer volume discounts for large cluster installations. Academic pricing is also available, starting at $295 per node, the company said.

Meanwhile, IDC has said it expects the HPC market, once obscured in academia and research, to return to a more sustainable growth over the next five years, as newer HPC applications proliferate in more mainstream computing environments.

PeakStream is targeting this market along with fellow startup RapidMind, which also provides a software development platform that allows developers to use GPUs, the IBM Cell and other multi-core processors to boost application performance.