Multi-core JavaScript project from Intel now downloadable

Summary: Intel has made its data parallel JavaScript extension for Firefox available for download which promises easy multi-core development for everyday programs, not just scientific applications

As part of its data parallel JavaScript project, Intel today made RivertTrail available for download from Github. Intel described RiverTrail as their parallel computing JavaScript project, which comes with a multi-core capable JavaScript Firefox extension.

Justin Rattner, Intel CTO and director of Intel Labs, made the announcement as part of his keynote address during Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2011 held in San Francisco.

Calling on stage Brendan Eich, Mozilla CTO and creator of JavaScript, Rattner set the scene by asking Eich about JavaScript’s non-existent parallel processing capabilities.

This lead into a demonstration of RiverTrail, which was shown to improve the performance of a particle physics simulator 15 fold from 3 frames per second (fps) to 45fps.

Intel RiverTrail at IDF 2011
Intel RiverTrail at IDF 2011

At their parallel web applications booth at IDF, Intel Labs staff Richard Hudson and Stephan Herhut showed a similar demonstration of the technology, with the notable addition of a resource monitor which showed the simulator maxing out all 8 cores of their demo machine.

With the parallelism extension turned off only one core was used.

Although the demonstration made use of a particle simulation, Intel said that the aim of the project isn’t only for scientific applications.

Richard Hudson and Stephan Herhut
Richard Hudson and Stephan Herhut - Intel Labs

In an earlier conversation at their booth, Hudson explained that they made the technology easy enough for productivity programmers to use.

The idea was to help developers avoid the complexities typically associated with programming for parallelism, such as locks and other tricks needed to prevent programs from behaving badly.

This would enable developers to build new kinds of in-browser applications such photo and video editing programs or 3D games, Intel said.

Since JavaScript is also predominantly a web technology, Hudson said that security was of paramount concern.

He explained that they generate OpenCL code, which they use as a hardware abstraction layer, but ensured that they worked to offer all the same security inherent in JavaScript.

Brendan Eich, Mozilla CTO and Justin Rattner, Intel CTO
Brendan Eich - Mozilla CTO, Justin Rattner - Intel CTO

In a video released today with the announcement, Herhut said that whenever they had to make a choice between performance and safety, they went for safety.

On their use of OpenCL, Hudson explained that their principle is to “run everywhere, but run best on Intel.”

During the keynote, Intel said that they would like to see their parallel JavaScript extension become part of the ECMAScript standard.

Mozilla’s Eich said that he sits on the ECMAScript standards body and promised to promote RiverTrail there.

Jan Vermeulen is a guest of Intel at IDF 2011.

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Multi-core JavaScript project from Intel now downloadable