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January 1993

High Performance Fortran At Last
Ken Kennedy, Director, CRPC

On May 15, 1993, Version 1.0 of the High Performance Fortran (HPF) language specification will be available for public distribution. This document is the product of the High Performance Fortran Forum, a unique collaboration by industry, academia and government laboratories. There were more than 40 people in the working group that met every six weeks between January 1992 and December 1992 to produce a draft for public comment and in March 1993 to finalize the document based on the public review. The result specifies a language that is a blend of Fortran 90, data distribution specifications similar to those in Fortran D, and new parallel constructs such as the FORALL statement. Twelve companies (ACE, APR, DEC, Intel, KAI, MasPar, Meiko, Lahey, NA Software, Portland Group, PSR, Thinking Machines) have announced that they will offer products based on HPF and another seven companies (Archipel, Convex, Cray Research, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, nCube) have actively participated in the standardization process, although they are not yet ready to announce products.

The next year will be critical for High Performance Fortran, because its success or failure will depend upon the effectiveness of the first compilers in generating efficient code for various target architectures. If it is successful, HPF could help break down one of the most formidable obstacles to progress in the high performance computing industry, namely the absence of a vehicle for expressing data parallel programs in a machine-independent way.

The current version of HPF is helpful only for the regular problems, i.e., those in which all subscript expressions are simple affine functions of the loop induction variables. In the long term, HPF cannot be a complete success unless it can also help with problems on irregular or adaptive meshes (characterized by the use of subscripted variables within subscripts). In collaboration with Joel Saltz's group at the University of Maryland, the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC) Fortran D groups at Rice and Syracuse have embarked on a project to investigate how to support irregular problems in a language like HPF. If this research bears fruit, it may influence the second round of HPF standardization, scheduled for the 1994 calendar year.

The CRPC has played a central role in the development of HPF. It served as a convening organization for the HPF Forum and provided support costs for the academic participants, assuring that the views from academia were adequately represented. In addition, the Fortran D research deeply influenced the final language specification. I believe that this is a perfect example of how a research center like the CRPC can have maximum impact on industrial practice and products. The HPF process has already served as a model for the ongoing effort to standardize message-passing interfaces, in which the CRPC is also involved. I do not think it would be much of an exaggeration to say that HPF is the single most important technology transfer accomplishment by the CRPC or any other science and technology center over the past five years. As director, I am proud of the role the CRPC has played in this effort and I will continue to encourage activities of this sort throughout the lifetime of the center.

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