You have the opportunity to experiment with the new parallel programming features that Microsoft is introducing into the next version of Visual Studio. The developer preview of Visual Studio 11 is available now for free download. Microsoft warns that this preview software shouldn’t be used in a production environment, but does say it will work alongside your existing Visual Studio installation.
So, what’s new? C++ Accelerated Massive Parallelism (C++ AMP) “provides an STL-like library as part of the existing concurrency namespace and delivered in the new amp.h header file”, and is a fully integrated part of Visual C++, using the same tool set. It is claimed to “make it easy to work with multidimensional data on heterogeneous hardware in a manner that exposes parallelisation”. (Both quotes from Daniel Moth, from Microsoft’s Parallel Computing team). There’s a short blog post with some signposts to dig deeper into C++ AMP here.
There are also speed ups in the compiled code, with the code examples running 15% faster for the stock analysis sample and 20% faster for the Cartoonizer example.
I don’t know how you feel about beta or preview code? Some people steer clear of it because it means spending time on something that might not work correctly, or learning about features that could be discontinued, neither of which is a priority for them. Others see it as an opportunity to get ahead of the rest and to claim a position at the cutting edge of their industry. If you do take the new Visual Studio preview for a spin, drop me a line to let me know how you got on!