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October 4, 2010

Rogue Wave Adds Acumem to Its HPC Stable

by Michael Feldman

Rogue Wave Software has acquired HPC toolmaker Acumen AB, a Swedish company that makes performance optimization tools for multithreaded applications. Acumem brought its first products to market in 2008, based on technology developed by Erik Hagersten and his research team at Uppsala University. Acumem’s product set and engineering group will be retained, along with the company’s office in Uppsala, Sweden.

Acumen is the third HPC tool vendor bought by Rogue Wave within the last 18 months, having acquired Visual Numerics in May 2009, followed by TotalView Technologies in January of 2010. With Visual Numerics, Rogue Wave got IMSL, a set of mathematical and statistical libraries for technical computing, while TotalView brought its namesake TotalView source code and memory debugger. With the acquisitions, Rogue Wave now claims over 3,000 customers spread across 36 countries.

Prior to 2009, Rogue Wave principally sold embeddable C++ libraries under its SourcePro brand, and application prototyping tools like PV-WAVE. Although the company was not considered a high performance computing vendor until recently, its traditional customer base of banks, telecoms, government organizations, and defense/aerospace firms brought it close to HPC customers in many instances. The SourcePro libraries, in particular, are used in large compute grids for quantitative finance applications at firms like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Barclays Capital. Now with its new portfolio of parallel numeric libraries, HPC debuggers, and multicore optimization software, the company can add research/academia, oil & gas, and computer animation to its list of application areas.

More broadly, Rogue Wave is looking to carve a niche as a purveyor of cross-platform productivity tools for high performance computing and beyond. According to Rogue Wave CEO Brian Pierce, no one is really in position to do that today for HPC. “We feel we’re starting to fill in the holes in the tool chain for this market,” he says.

From his perspective, the tool market in general is fragmented and dominated by a large number of small companies trying to get their products to market. Once you get past companies like Intel, IBM and a handful of others big firms that offer software development tools as a side business to back their products, the pure-play tool providers are almost invisible, Pierce explains. “For us it was creating scale and stability in a market segment that does not necessarily have that,” he says. With a 21-year track record, revenues in the tens of million of dollars, and a staff of about 140 employees, Rogue Wave believes it has enough critical mass to bring its HPC portfolio to a wider market.

Pierce says their overarching strategy is to marry Rogue Wave’s enterprise-class libraries and productivity tools with its new HPC products. The trend driving all this is the parallelization of computing infrastructure — multicore, multiprocessor, and multi-node environments are now commonplace across the IT landscape, so logic dictates that the demand for parallel tools and libraries will grow accordingly.

Using its combined portfolio of libraries and tools, Rogue Wave is targeting both the build and debugging areas of the development environment. On the build side, they offer IMSL, PyIMSL Studio, and PV-WAVE. PyIMSL is a prototyping tool for designing numerical applications. Essentially it’s a Python wrapper for the IMSL libraries, and is targeted at domain experts rather than programmers. PV-WAVE is a suite of tools for designing shared-memory analytics applications that need to process and visualize large datasets. It also includes its own set of analysis routines that use the IMSL libraries.

Moving to the debugging and execution side of the toolchain is the TotalView debugger, the reverse debugger ReplayEngine, and the MemoryScape memory debugger. For performance profiling, Acumen’s SlowSpotter, ThreadSpotter, and Spotlight provide a set of tools that enable the developer to optimize memory and thread performance. Although the debuggers and performance optimizers are standalone products today, they have a natural affinity for one another, inasmuch as performance tuning and debugging is often done in concert during development. Pierce says he foresees bundling these product sets in “the not too distant future,” although he wouldn’t say if actual product integration is in the works.

There is one area the company is not interested in pursuing: compiler technology. According to Pierce, there are plenty of good compilers on the market today, and since they want to maintain their cross-platform approach, there is no compelling reason to bring a particular one in-house. For the time being, at least, Rogue Wave will see how much mileage it can get out of the tools it’s assembled, and see if it can take advantage of the industry’s move to multicore and other parallel computing technologies.