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Microsoft Files For 3 Parallel Processing Patents

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the three-easy-pieces dept.

Patents 137

theodp writes "Microsoft may have been a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to parallel programming, but that's not stopping the software giant from trying to patent it. This week, the USPTO revealed that Microsoft has three additional parallel-processing patents pending — 1. Partitioning and Repartitioning for Data Parallel Operations, 2. Data Parallel Searching, and 3. Data Parallel Production and Consumption. Informing the USPTO that 'Software programs have been written to run sequentially since the beginning days of software development,' Microsoft adds there's been a '[recent] shift away from sequential execution toward parallel execution.' Before they grant the patents, let's hope the USPTO gets a second opinion on the novelty of Microsoft's parallel-processing patent claims."

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Pain of Patents is in the reading (5, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240015)

I can't imagine anyone making a living off of reading software patents. Every time I read them, I think to myself, "whoever those patent examiners are, they are not getting paid enough." The only way you could enjoy writing those things is if you liked giving people pain, and were dreaming of how much you actually were going to hurt the poor examiner.

After reading through the claims in the third patent, I honestly can't see how it is different than the producer/consumer program I wrote my Junior year. They seem to imply that it might be applied to a database, but I couldn't find where it actually specified it (of course the pain of what I was doing somewhat distracted me). Can anyone else see anything in there that is different?

The first patent looks kind of interesting, inasmuch as it seems like they are applying it to a database, and I know of no database that actually does a single query in parallel, but I'm not sure it would be any more efficient, because there is only one disk. Having two threads isn't going to speed anything up there, and might actually cause the disk to thrash.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240065)

The only way you could enjoy writing those things is if you liked giving people pain

As a proud sadistic sociopathic serial killer/rapist, I strongly object to your claims that a person such as I could ever enjoy such a heinous act.

Parallelism within queries is common today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240163)

Many databases run individual queries in parallel, and there are often multiple disks (or machines) involved. (In fact, apart from keeping your working set in memory -- not always practical -- having as many disks as you can affort has long been one way to speed up databases. SSDs will have interesting effects, I'm sure.)

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (3, Funny)

underqualified (1318035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240177)

maybe james joyce was a patent examiner

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

edumacator (910819) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240537)

For those of you who didn't pay attention in your 4000 level lit classes...

A brief selection from Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce. Arguably the most complex novel in the English language.

http://finwake.com/1024chapter1/1024finn1.htm

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28241283)

This is Slashdot.

1) We rarely read the articles here.
2) We sometimes read the summaries.
3) Heck we often don't even read or understand the posts we reply to (or moderate)!

So a link to the most complex novel in the English language is wasted on us.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241423)

Would I be the first person to say "that's so purple it's ultraviolet!"?

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241463)

Yes, if you liked it, it's the APL of literature; if you didn't, it's the perl.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (5, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240203)

The first patent looks kind of interesting, inasmuch as it seems like they are applying it to a database

I don't think so. From reading the claims, it seems to be quite obviously a patent for Parallel LINQ [microsoft.com] to me - it specifically covers all LINQ operators one by one. And PLINQ isn't for databases - it's for in-memory data. Essentially, it's just map/filter/fold/join on arbitrary sequences with automatic parallelization.

Though I don't see why it wouldn't be just as applicable to databases (which are, after all, just advanced implementations of the above).

I know of no database that actually does a single query in parallel, but I'm not sure it would be any more efficient, because there is only one disk.

Records aren't read from disk one-by-one - they are usually read in pages, and once in-memory, it's obviously faster to e.g. filter rows in parallel on as many cores as there are available. Doing it for a simple SELECT .. WHERE .. is trivial. The trick is to get it right for operations involving joins, grouping, and ordering, with arbitrary sequencing and possibly nesting. Which, if I understood correctly, is what the patent is about.

Anyway, for a shared-use RDBMS, it might be moot, because it usually has more than one query to process at any given time - and so it's easy to load-balance all cores just by assigning queries to them.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

uid7306m (830787) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240477)

Anyway, for a shared-use RDBMS, it might be moot, because it usually has more than one query to process at any given time - and so it's easy to load-balance all cores just by assigning queries to them.

Ha! Not so! Load balancing like that means the response time is long. Long response times do eventually add up, especially if you are combining data from many database servers, like in a web mash-up.

Ideally, if you could do the queries really fast, and work at only one query at a time with all processors, everyone would be happier.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241173)

If there is any overhead in parallelizing stuff, the overhead will quickly add up. All your queries will end-up being slower, not because they don't use all available cores, but because they will have to wait to start because of lack of free cores.

It's a balancing issue.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28241279)

I know of no database that actually does a single query in parallel, but I'm not sure it would be any more efficient, because there is only one disk.

Many Databases (Teradata, DB2, Oracle and even Microsoft - leaving out startups like Greenplum, AsterData etc.) have parallel queries to allow execution of a single query by many processes/threads simultaneously. Research on this began in the 80s (DeWitt's Gamma for e.g.) so there are many well understood techniques. And really, saying databases only have one disk is a little bit of a stretch. Many (maybe most) commercial database implementations will use many disks for a single database

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241469)

Wait, isn't that just MapReduce?

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

nih (411096) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240319)

I honestly can't see how it is different than the producer/consumer program I wrote my Junior year

You are infringing patent #20090144228, please delete all copies of infringing software or face legal action.

MS Legal Department
Have a nice day.

Parallel database (3, Interesting)

AlecC (512609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240337)

Many years ago there was a data storage sytem developed by, I think, ICL, which had a correlator built into the disk data path for each disk arm so that it could search every head of a multi-platter disk at the same. But indexing turned out to be a better method than brute force, so it died. But it was, nonetheless, a highly parallel database search.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

ProfMobius (1313701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240443)

I can't imagine anyone making a living off of reading software patents. Every time I read them, I think to myself, "whoever those patent examiners are, they are not getting paid enough."

Einstein was so bored when he was at the patent office that he did some thought experiments there.

We all know what he found while bored...

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (4, Informative)

KeithJM (1024071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240577)

I know of no database that actually does a single query in parallel, but I'm not sure it would be any more efficient, because there is only one disk

There is more than one disk. Remember we're not running databases on your laptop. The first time I saw one table spread out over multiple disks it was an Informix database and the feature was called Fragmentation. I believe SQL Server calls it sharding. Once you do that, it's easy enough to do your queries in parallel. Informix not only let you roughly configure how many threads and how much memory to use for parallel queries, but it did all of this over 10 years ago. Here's a link to the relevant documation: http://docs.rinet.ru/InforSmes/ch20/ch20.htm#Heading4 [rinet.ru]

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241579)

Also, the terabyte PCIe attached SSD's are in the market now. If you RAID them you get over 1000 MB/s throughput and latencies around 100 microseconds, in volumes as large as 6TB or more. With reasonable progress from here it's easy to see that disk speed is about to go away as a database design constraint.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (4, Interesting)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240593)

The UK's CARDS (Content Addressable Relational Data Store) database engine, on which I worked in the 1980s, did this kind of stuff (Using RAID, though we didnt call it that at the time). Data was retrieved from multiple HDs using an array of Transputers, managed by a workstation that was similar to Sun workstations of the day (double-extended triple Eurocard with Motorola 68020 processor and Unix). Data relationships described graphically (like the stuff in Access, but more powerful).

So its not, like, a novel invention or anything. Please can I have a patent on "a round device for rolling heavy loads along paved areas". Thanks.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240811)

MS SQL server has, since at least V7 (sql server 7) a parallel query facility, called Intra-Query Parallelisation. It is supposed to exploit extra cores for a single query.
It is buggy. In Sql server 7 it regularly deadlocked against itself, in sql server 2000 it actually could run slower than using a single core both wall-clock time and total cpu time, and sometimes much worse things happened under heavy load.
Disable it. You can do this from enterprise manager.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (4, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240967)

The pay is fairly competitive (as government jobs go, at least) with industry jobs. Starting salaries are close to average, ranging from $50k to $70k, depending on your incoming level of experience/education, although you do have to live in the DC-VA-MD area, which can be fairly expensive (though not as bad as Manhattan or Silicon Valley, for instance). If you stay long enough, you can hit the federal salary cap (about $150k). It's also tough to beat government bennies. The question is whether you like the work and can deal with the production environment.

Examiners are responsible to get a certain number of "counts" per pay period. You get a count by sending out a first Office action for an application (on the merits - there are certain Office actions which don't count for this). You also get a count when an application is disposed of (abandoned, allowed, upon writing an Examiner's Answer when the applicant is appealing your decision, or upon the applicant filing a Request for Continued Examination).

The problem is that there are Office actions that don't earn you counts, but that still require a decent amount of work. Your second Office action on a case doesn't earn you a count, and if you screwed up the first one, you may not be able to make the second one "final" (after final, if you did your Office action correctly, the applicant is only able to appeal or file an RCE, so you usually get a count after a final action within 3 to 6 months).

What this amounts to is a fairly grueling workplace starting at about six months (once your "basic" training is mostly complete) to about 1.5 to 2 years, because in the interim, you're doing a lot of Office actions that don't earn you any counts yet. Once your pipeline gets full, i.e., all those extra actions you sent out are finally netting you some disposal counts, the workload tapers off, and if you're good at the job, you'll pretty much sail through and get your promotions and bonuses easily at that point. But in the meantime, you'll probably be working a lot of unpaid overtime to make production.

The production system is why the turnover at the USPTO is so high. Most examiners who leave cite it as the biggest factor in their decision to quit. Not coincidentally, most examiners leave within their first two years. If it were fun like programming games or something, then people would probably grin and bear it, but it's kind of not. You'll learn a lot about the technology (or "art") you're examining in, but most of this learning will come from searching the prior art rather than from reading the applications you're examining, because attorneys (most of whom have a basic science or engineering background) write most of these things (and frequently, they are mediocre translations from Japanese or Korean), and the legal aspects make the obfuscations practiced by the attorneys into an artform.

Still, some people like it, and they stay at the USPTO until they retire. I haven't figured out why yet.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241059)

IBM had hard disks in their mainframe computers that had more than one head assembly. I am not sure if they could read or write to the same surfaces or were just assembled in a way one head acted on one surface only but it is easy to imagine a high-performance drive with more than one set of heads that can travel independently.

And if your database server has only one drive one one controller, you are not really serious about it.

Re:Pain of Patents is in the reading (1)

chudnall (514856) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241167)

At least they filed the patents in parallel.

Biased anti-Microsoft garbage article (1)

BasharTeg (71923) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241885)

All I can say is, anyone who calls Microsoft Johnny-Come-Lately on parallelism is severely ignorant of the subject. Especially wheen your link for the phrase goes to PLINQ, implying that this was their first effort in the world of concurrency and parallelism.

Compare Microsoft's I/O Completion Ports mechanism (involving both the scheduler and the event driven I/O architecture) and the fact that epoll() itself was the Johnny-Come-Lately technology, or the C10K problem was solved on IIS thanks to I/O Completion Ports before epoll() plus Apache 2 were ready for prime time, or that the NT kernel has had real threads since its inception and the Linux kernel was running "LinuxThreads" with vfork() until not more than a couple of years ago. This was all at the same time that Windows developers were enjoying a system managed thread pool that handled all the math for best scalability on an N cpu setup. Perhaps we shouldn't even bring up the weak aio API versus the mature async API under the NT kernel. Or you could point out that MySQL and Postgress are ages behind the level of auto-parallelism available with unmodified queries in Microsoft SQL 2005 and 2008.

Or that when you look at technologies like PLINQ and parallel generic ForEach in .NET, it brings easily learned and used parallelism not just to high end developers but to mainstream developers allowing a wider array of software to take advantage of the manycore era.

And finally, look at the fact that Johnny-Come-Lately may in fact be Johnny-Came-Right-On-Time. Putting heavy efforts into their concurrency efforts back when 90% of the multi-core computers had 2 or 4 cpus wasn't the best allocation of resources at the time. In about 2006 when PLINQ was getting started, that was when the multi-core era was really kicking off. Now Visual Studio 2010 is about to release with .NET 4.0 and technologies like PLINQ and parallel ForEach are mature and ready to go, it certainly seems like they timed it just right.

The people who were heavy into parallelism prior to Microsoft's efforts were mostly composed of specialization and academia. The OSS crowd has been playing catch-up for the past 5 years and they still aren't there yet. If there's one company that is going to bring concurrency and parallelism to a critical mass of developers, and to a critical mass of applications to benefit a majority of the users in this world, it's going to be Microsoft.

pffff (2, Insightful)

Bafoon (1191427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240035)

Johnny-come-lately? Compared to what others have done in the fields of parallel processing in terms of programming...they are light years ahead. Try programming in linux for one day and then throw parallel processing into it. then throw in some data. then tell me who the "Johnny-come-lately" is.

Re:pffff (0, Offtopic)

MrMr (219533) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240071)

You are.
Second post trolling is really old.

Re:pffff (0)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240081)

Mod parent up. MS definelty jumped on parallel processing early

Re:pffff (0)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240185)

Sorry to point out your ignorance or sarcasm but parallel processing not only predates Microsoft but unix as well. One of the methods I use to distribute jobs (pbs - new version is called torque) was developed by NASA long before Windows95 came on the scene.

Re:pffff (4, Insightful)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240217)

I think the confusion here is that people keep referring to parallel processing in general - which is obviously a very old, and well-explored idea - while the real topic here is automatic parallelization. It's obviously not new either, but so far it has been much less successful. We keep hearing about how pure FP languages such as Haskell would enable it, but, so far, no cigar. And now Microsoft is trying to pull that trick with LINQ and STL.

Re:pffff (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240417)

..and they will do it too, or else Intel will eat their lunch in the compiler arena.

Intel's compiler already does some automatic SIMD, and you can be sure that it will be ready for Larrabee.

Re:pffff (3, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240533)

You keep hearing, but you not watching? A preview of Data Parallel Haskell is a part of GHC 6.10. I guess they just need more time, people and/or money - the scope of their project seems to be much broader. Oh, and BTW, the `par` operator has been a part of GHC for quite some time. The very idea, though, is much older [cmu.edu] , and as the link claims, in 1996, a language with these features had been already in use for three years.

Microsoft is only doing here something they are good ate: shrink-wrapping a technology for the average consumer. I would argue that many developers *can* be classified as consumers. While there is nothing inherently bad with this, it is does not exactly made these patent applications right, either.

Re:pffff (0, Troll)

MrMr (219533) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241079)

Mips compilers came with the APO options since the late 1990's. As usual Microsoft is 'inventing' 10 year old technology, and patenting it.

Re:pffff (1)

PsychicX (866028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241633)

Additionally, please remember that in a patent, the abstract is not what is being patented. The abstract just provides the rough background for the actual patented invention, which is why it always sounds familiar.

Re:pffff (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240093)

Try programming in linux for one day and then throw parallel processing into it.

Linux isn't a programming language. And if you think Microsfot is "light years" ahead of everyone else, you're severely misinformed.

Re:pffff (2, Informative)

Hillview (1113491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240113)

I may be wrong, but I believe the article was referring to the fact that parallel processing has been around since before Microsoft existed. Of course, Following the Links [teradata.com] and perhaps a little research of your own [vt.edu] will provide further insight.

Re:pffff (2, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240227)

I think that GP was referring to some stuff that isn't out of beta yet:

Parallel LINQ [microsoft.com] (for .NET)
Parallel Patterns Library [microsoft.com] (for native C++)

Obviously, this stuff didn't have a chance to have any significant effect yet, and won't until first stable versions are released.

Re:pffff (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241199)

"Obviously, this stuff didn't have a chance to have any significant effect yet, and won't until first stable versions are released."

Most Microsoft software is hardly stable, but has a very large effect on the market.

This thing will be used as soon as point-and-click icon-dragging self-proclaimed programmers can have it in Visual Studio with a couple wizards to help them graft if on tp of their programs.

Re:pffff (4, Interesting)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240157)

You'd think that somebody that's light-years ahead when it comes to parallel processing would rule the roost in the Top 500 [top500.org] supercomputer list. I'm sure there's a good explanation, though....just waiting to hear it. :)

Re:pffff (1)

Wormholio (729552) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241187)

You'd think that somebody that's light-years ahead when it comes to parallel processing would rule the roost in the Top 500 supercomputer list. I'm sure there's a good explanation, though....just waiting to hear it. :)

To get on the Top 500 list your machine is measured against the LINPACK benchmark. It's not the best benchmark for parallel performance, so in many cases nobody has bothered.

Re:pffff (2, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241615)

You tell him! Why, all those truly parallel massive Windows supercomputer system installations just blow those Linux boxes in the top500 away when they're doing real work.

Like... Like... help me out here, I'm lost for an example.

Re:pffff (5, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240167)

Try programming in linux for one day and then throw parallel processing into it.

It can be as simple as throwing in "rsh" and sending the task to another system - that's a parallel processing method still in use that predates linux. I suggest the above poster uses google to find out what parallel processing is and look at the many different ways of dividing up the tasks, kicking of the processes and getting some sort of results at the end.
Microsoft are the new kids on the block and their licencing alone makes them a very poor choice for clustering so I haven't heard of any production software that will actually run on the platform. There has to be something because it's been a couple of years now. Does anyone have any good examples?

Re:pffff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240501)

IBM's InformationServer does all of what is described by MS's patents. The parallel engine it uses has been around for 15 years and runs on many flavors of unix and windows:
http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/iisinfsv/v8r0/index.jsp?topic=/com.ibm.swg.im.iis.productization.iisinfsv.overview.doc/topics/cisoarchoverview.html

Re:pffff (1)

Teckla (630646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240891)

kicking of the processes

Listen up, mister! We don't take kindly to process abuse around here!

Re:pffff (4, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240173)

"Try programming in linux for one day and then throw parallel processing into it. then throw in some data."

Funny, but I do this every day. Say, does Windows support zero-copy Infiniband links? How about MPI performance? How about fire&forget clustered processes?

Re:pffff (0)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240507)

Say, does Windows support zero-copy Infiniband links?

Yes, it does.
Click Here [redorbit.com]

http://www.mellanox.com/pdf/whitepapers/SDPCluster2006.pdf [mellanox.com]

How about MPI performance?

Yes, it does.
http://www.purempi.net/ [purempi.net]

How about fire&forget clustered processes?

Yes, it does.
http://blogs.msdn.com/distributedservices/default.aspx [msdn.com]

Re:pffff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240539)

sdp is not zero copy

Re:pffff (4, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240553)

PureMPI is _slow_, it's managed and it can't work with raw links.

Windows does _not_ support process migration, clustering services is a different beast (comparable to JBoss Clustering - http://www.jboss.org/jbossclustering/ [jboss.org] ).

Also, Windows has no good clustered filesystems (like OCFS2 in Linux). And no analogs of DRBD.

So you can use Windows for parallel processing, but Linux is almost(?) always better for HPC.

as simple as and (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240175)

And slashdot doesn't get my humour.

 

Re:pffff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240193)

I code apps that are highly parallel. Under Linux, *BSD, Solaris and other systems.
I use pthread plus atomic operations and have no problems with those.
What exactly are you talking about? Do you really think Linux is a programming language (your post sounds like you do)?
Please enlighten me why you think parallel processing is difficult, badly implemented or something similar with/in Linux because I can't for the life of me imagine why you'd think so.

Oh and Unix systems had support for parallel processing long before Bill even thought of Windows.

scientific computation (4, Interesting)

pigwiggle (882643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241399)

is where the massively parallel applications are at. I regularly write and run parallel code that will efficiently run over thousands of processors - my largest run to date was over 1024, 8 processor nodes, so 8192 processes parallelized. It is all Linux - no exception. I've yet to hear of a respectable production cluster running Windows. In fact, I have yet to run into anybody who isn't running Linux on their desktop, in my line of work. I regularly write and run parallel code - the analysis code for crunching the enormous data sets produced on the clusters - for my quad core desktop machine running Linux. You've no clue.

Old stuff (1, Interesting)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240053)

Shame I don't have any of the code developed in the mid-late 80s where I worked for the Transputer - it's probably riddled with prior art.

Re:Old stuff (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240191)

Shame I don't have any of the code developed in the mid-late 80s where I worked for the Transputer - it's probably riddled with prior art.

It's the thing Occam targeted, right? If so, it seems to not be the case - from a cursory glance at the patents, it seems that it's about automated query parallelism. When looking for prior art, I'd expect something like SQL implementations to be more likely candidates.

Re:Old stuff (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240615)

Would *Lisp [wikipedia.org] satisfy your expectations?

Yes but... (2, Funny)

plankrwf (929870) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240115)

Yes but...
The big question is:
If the three patents are 'processed in parallel' by the USPTO, would that constituate prior art ;-0

Re:Yes but... (2, Funny)

sigxcpu (456479) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240209)

It would be real progress if they could do three blue screens in parallel.

Re:Yes but... (1)

Narishma (822073) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240941)

Re:Yes but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28241179)

No the 3rd one is *perpendicular* to the rest.

Map Reduce by any other name (1)

mysterons (1472839) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240117)

> 1. A computer-readable storage medium storing computer-executable instructions for performing a method comprising:re-writing a query to contain data parallel operations that include partitioning and merging, wherein the query identifies at least one input data source;partitioning the at least one input data source into a plurality of initial partitions;performing a parallel repartitioning operation on the initial partitions, thereby generating a plurality of secondary partitions; andperforming a parallel execution of the query using the secondary partitions, thereby generating a plurality of output sets. > or indeed, any other obvious way to do parallel processing.

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/29130 [theonion.com]

First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240135)

PAR
        First post ! posts
        First post ! posts
        First post ! posts
CASE post
        annoying
                SEQ
                        Moderate to Hell ! moderations
                        Write a better, Microsoft bashing post ! posts
        amusing
                SEQ
                        Moderate to Heaven ! moderations
                        Write a better, Microsoft bashing post ! posts
        indifferent
                SEQ
                        Write a better, Microsoft bashing post ! posts

Let's not forget (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240151)

the recent court ruling that makes it more difficult to get software patents in the first place. There is a good chance that even if they are not challenged due to prior art, they wouldn't pass muster anyway.

Serve the bastards right.

Re:Let's not forget (1)

slash.duncan (1103465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240489)

Except... the "recent court rulings" you refer to were at the circuit court or lower. Bliski is now accepted for SCOTUS term 2010, so regardless of how that comes down and certainly nobody knows at this point, it's business as usual for the various software patenters.

And realistically, while we can hope the entire software patent policy gets cremated, it's not all that likely to happen. We can hope tho, particularly since the SCOTUS has never actually ruled that they were allowed in the first place and they originally weren't.

Re:Let's not forget (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241635)

Federal appeals court rulings are binding on patents (state law does not apply). Bilski is binding until its actually overturned.

Just what the world needs... (4, Insightful)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240161)

Yeah, this is really just what we need: for somebody to come along and encumber the future of parallel processing with a metric fuckload of patents. Thanks, Microsoft!

Re:Just what the world needs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240779)

They've been trying to encumber parallel computing since they discovered it... on the Beowulf list... about 10 years ago. At that time, they offered NT source (and of course, XP later) to universities that'd sign their shared source agreement. And install Windows "HPC" systems. They've got a working version of MPICH for their application environment now, and there are Windows systems (11/2008 list: 5 systems, 51k processors, 328TF total aggregate throughput) in the Top500. I've little doubt they'll keep growing, but I seriously doubt they'll catch *nix anytime soon on this front.

Recall that they're not out for the betterment of anything save Microsoft, and HPC/parallel computing is merely one more potential revenue stream. They're not out to improve it, but they are out to balkanize it into their own.

Re:Just what the world needs... (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241211)

"[b.belong('us') for b in bases if b.owner() == 'you']"

If it could use different cores and run automatically in parallel, we could sink some of these patents ;-)

Re:Just what the world needs... (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241311)

Microsoft is also infringing on your sig.

Patenting what we already have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240187)

These patents just seem like the usual land grab situation. The claim by MS that programs have been sequential for years is a bit BS since, regardless of the physical hardware the asynch calls and multithreading calls have been in the languages for at least 20 years.
Also the claims seem like they are trying to own what is already there as they all sound like web based search and load balancing situations.

I hope the USPTO realises and takes good technical advice to limit these claims. Don't leave the mess for 'big money' to sort out.

so basically MS invented MapReduce and PVM algos (3, Interesting)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240199)

These patents look very much like they would cover MapReduce, the parallel search patent is obviously just a specification of a straightforward parallel search implementation e.g. using PVM (many trivial implementations exist since the 90s).

The USPTO will once again be the laughing stock of the whole IT field if they grant these patents.

So, I went looking (1)

Hillview (1113491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240215)

Re:So, I went looking (sorry, bad html above..) (1)

Hillview (1113491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240229)

found an upcoming USPTO meeting [uspto.gov] which perports to be publicly accessible.. does anyone know if it's possible to submit questions via the webcast? If so.. slashdot them, next tuesday? ;)

Rules of the Game (4, Insightful)

jamesl (106902) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240231)

Rule 1: If I don't patent it, someone else will -- no matter how obvious or trivial.
Rule 2: If someone else patents it -- even if invalid -- and I try to use it, it's off to court for years and years and lots of money.

The game: The one with the most patents wins.

If you don't like the rules, you have two choices.
Choice 1: Don't play the game.
Choice 2: Get the rules changed.

Criticizing Microsoft or anyone else for playing the game by the rules is just whining.

Re:Rules of the Game (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240433)

Whining can be considered by people other than you to be a call to arms, which is often the first step taken pursuant to option #2.

Re:Rules of the Game (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240535)

Mod parent up.

Re:Rules of the Game (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240617)

So, basically you're saying the system is broken?

Re:Rules of the Game (1)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240693)

So you'd just rather cowardly keep your mouth shut and silently accept it?

I'm sorry, but people like you are the reason the system is so fucked up to begin with.

Re:Rules of the Game (2, Insightful)

jamesl (106902) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241129)

Your implication is that there are only two choices: "Criticize Microsoft and others for playing by the rules" and "keeping your mouth shut and silently accepting it." There are others, all more effective.

Re:Rules of the Game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28241147)

Companies are designed to make profit, not to go on ideological crusades against the system like you imagine.

If you want change to happen, write your congressman. Criticising Microsoft is taking the cowardly "it's someone else's responsibility, not mine" approach.

Re:Rules of the Game (3, Informative)

hubert.lepicki (1119397) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240711)

As a software developer and small player in this market i must agree. I don't use Microsoft's products, nor I make living from selling/using them, but that doesn't change the fact you can't criticize Microsoft for playing the rules of the game.

However, what you can blame Microsoft for is not trying to change the rules. They seem to be happy with things the way they are. I won't bring quotes from Bill Gates from past saying software patents is stupid, just go and google it.

The same applies to IBM and other big vendors, possibly with the exception of Sun and Novell (but go and figure out how these two ended up...).

These companies lobby very successfully in favor of software patents. They act together, as a team. They profit from their actions and other companies suffer. I can't think of different way of naming it than a CARTEL.

They are doing this different way than other cartels do. They are not fixing prices, but use law system to enforce their privileged positions and make life of other companies much more difficult and - most important - expensive. This means their products are also more expensive, and here is real intention of having software patents system in place - not to allow new players to enter the game. This is a cartel, but I don't know if EU/US governments will ever realize it.

Re:Rules of the Game (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241155)

... and here is real intention of having software patents system in place - not to allow new players to enter the game.

Anyone can apply for and receive a patent.

Re:Rules of the Game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28241289)

Anyone can apply for and receive a patent.

Yet another in a myriad of statements that are factually true and practically false. Government and corporations are good at creating those situations.

Put in real-world terms, the above quote should read "Anyone with sufficient money for patent searches, attorney fees, and the money to go to trial when a large company doesn't like what you're doing can receive a patent."

I can't think of a better way to do the opposite of what the patent system is supposed to be for--promoting innovation.

Re:Rules of the Game (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241637)

Anyone with sufficient money for patent searches, attorney fees, and the money to go to trial when a large company doesn't like what you're doing can receive a patent. puts unquantified conditions on but does not negate the phrase, Anyone can apply for and receive a patent.

Can you spell "MapReduce" Microsoft? (4, Informative)

itsybitsy (149808) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240255)

Strange I was just researching MapReduce online when this slashdot posting appeared.

http://www.cs.vu.nl/~ralf/MapReduce/paper.pdf [cs.vu.nl]
http://cnx.org/content/m20644/latest/ [cnx.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MapReduce [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_File_System [wikipedia.org]

Patent examiners need to get their heads examined.

Patents, a strange concept anyhow to have a government imposed monopoly. Revoke your governments power to have patents. That should take care of the pesky problem. Prior art helps too.

Mod parent up (1)

janwedekind (778872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240609)

Yes. I came here to post about MapReduce [wikipedia.org] as well. Especially the first patent summary reads like a description of the MapReduce algorithm. Furthermore the claimant and the examiner of the patent seem to be oblivious of even the most basic concepts of computer science such as Divide and Conquer [wikipedia.org] . Microsoft pretends to be certain about the outcome of the Bilski review.

Re:Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28241335)

Map reduce would likely not be parent art. MapReduce requires the programmer to figure out what to put in the mapper/reducer. These patents are most likely related to automatically generating map/reduce code from a higher level language

Re:Can you spell "MapReduce" Microsoft? (1)

TranceThrust (1391831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241331)

Not only MapReduce; the global description of the patent (input, partition, repartition, output) seems just to be a prehistoric version of partitioners like MeTiS, parkway, Mondriaan, Zoltan, etc. Prior art in abondance.

Looks ok (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240315)

Well, you gotta give it to Microsoft this time. It seems that these patents are all real and do cover significant innovation and no prior art. What's right is right. When you invent something you have to protect your invention.

After all patents were made to protect the little inventor from big companies, and this is a great example of the patent system working beautifully

Re:Looks ok (5, Funny)

fartrader (323244) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240339)

Well, you gotta give it to Microsoft this time. It seems that these patents are all real and do cover significant innovation and no prior art. What's right is right. When you invent something you have to protect your invention.

After all patents were made to protect the little inventor from big companies, and this is a great example of the patent system working beautifully

Thanks Steve for your comments.

Late but not too late (2, Funny)

De-Jean7777 (926132) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240361)

They may be coming in late on the parallel processing game, but they're ahead when it needs to patent it. They'd patent parallel parking if they could.

What cheek! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240479)

Could someone tell them to try to get ONE thing at once right before they try to fuck up your system multiple ways simultanously?

Patents are simply monopolies (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240555)

Got problems with the anti trust laws? Don't know how to deal with it? Simple: patent stuff. That way you get a legal monopoly and stifle the competition the easy way.

These kind of patents serve no purpose other than to prevent competing organisations from developing useful goods and services. They hold back innovation and stifle competition.

It is not as though others would not have come up with the same solutions (and most probably had already).

So why would politicians allow this state of affairs to continue? Who is lobbying to keep the patent system the way it is and maybe even extend it? Who benefits? (hint: lawyers and shareholders in large corporations - that is to say people who are already wealthy, trying to make sure they get an even bigger slice of the cake)

Sigh... (2, Funny)

Blankw (1571367) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240561)

Looks like they won't stop until they can patent breathing too. ...Ballmer, don't even think about it, I said it first.

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28241391)

I'm copylefting eating, sleeping, dreaming, communicating (including singing), defending yourself and family, meditating, right to freedom in general, liberty, owning your own private land and property, the right to clean air, and the right to life.
I copyleft all this under the GPL so you may all enjoy the rights I do.

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28241943)

There is a patent for breathing. Or was, but I suppose Iron Lungs and Ventilators have been around long enough that those patents are expired.

And furthermore... (1, Insightful)

TheTrollToll (1545539) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240771)

i think that Microsoft's patents are shallow and pedantic.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240827)

A quick Google search finds what looks suspiciously like prior art for their first patent:

H. P. Katseff, "Using Data Partitioning to Implement a Parallel Assembler," Proceedings of the ACM/SIGPLAN PPEALS 1988, New Haven, July 1988, pp 66-76.

http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=62123

I for one hope Microsoft gets the patents (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240935)

Microsoft is the most innovative company of all time. Their products are superior to all others, otherwise why would so many people use them? I mean, vista is awesome, it came right at a great time and really expanded the capability of computers. I cant wait for Microsoft to release a new operating system every 2 years, its awesome! I also really like how they are going to limit the number of processes on certain systems. Its SO confusing to determine how many processes my hardware can support. I hope Microsoft gets the patents, as they have been an outstanding corporate innovator for the last 12 years.

Re:I for one hope Microsoft gets the patents (1)

Helix666 (1148203) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241053)

I think I ruptured something laughing at that. Wonderful impersonation of a clueless Microsoftie. =)

Microsoft trying to pwn Google (1)

cmaxx (7796) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241309)

That's my reading, if these patents are granted.

It also pwns LDAP, and ORACLE, and well, pretty much everything that will run on multicore CPUs and GPGPUs.

Lovely, time to take up an honest trade.

Criminy (1)

Dega704 (1454673) | more than 5 years ago | (#28241879)

MS is becoming quite the patent troll lately. I suppose it's a form of self-preservation. I mean, lets face it. Between Google and open source software they know their once-impregnable empire is going to be in trouble if they don't galvanize their defenses in any way they can. Personally I think they should focus on gaming. Oh wait, I forgot they are trying to patent the ever-loving crap out of that too.

Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28242171)

For starters there was the Transputer and the Oracle programming language from the 1980s. I'm sure that others can provide other examples.

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