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Chapter 4. Basic Communication Operations

In most parallel algorithms, processes need to exchange data with other processes. This exchange of data can significantly impact the efficiency of parallel programs by introducing interaction delays during their execution. For instance, recall from Section 2.5 that it takes roughly ts + mtw time for a simple exchange of an m-word message between two processes running on different nodes of an interconnection network with cut-through routing. Here ts is the latency or the startup time for the data transfer and tw is the per-word transfer time, which is inversely proportional to the available bandwidth between the nodes. Many interactions in practical parallel programs occur in well-defined patterns involving more than two processes. Often either all processes participate together in a single global interaction operation, or subsets of processes participate in interactions local to each subset. These common basic patterns of interprocess interaction or communication are frequently used as building blocks in a variety of parallel algorithms. Proper implementation of these basic communication operations on various parallel architectures is a key to the efficient execution of the parallel algorithms that use them.

In this chapter, we present algorithms to implement some commonly used communication patterns on simple interconnection networks, such as the linear array, two-dimensional mesh, and the hypercube. The choice of these interconnection networks is motivated primarily by pedagogical reasons. For instance, although it is unlikely that large scale parallel computers will be based on the linear array or ring topology, it is important to understand various communication operations in the context of linear arrays because the rows and columns of meshes are linear arrays. Parallel algorithms that perform rowwise or columnwise communication on meshes use linear array algorithms. The algorithms for a number of communication operations on a mesh are simple extensions of the corresponding linear array algorithms to two dimensions. Furthermore, parallel algorithms using regular data structures such as arrays often map naturally onto one- or two-dimensional arrays of processes. This too makes it important to study interprocess interaction on a linear array or mesh interconnection network. The hypercube architecture, on the other hand, is interesting because many algorithms with recursive interaction patterns map naturally onto a hypercube topology. Most of these algorithms may perform equally well on interconnection networks other than the hypercube, but it is simpler to visualize their communication patterns on a hypercube.

The algorithms presented in this chapter in the context of simple network topologies are practical and are highly suitable for modern parallel computers, even though most such computers are unlikely to have an interconnection network that exactly matches one of the networks considered in this chapter. The reason is that on a modern parallel computer, the time to transfer data of a certain size between two nodes is often independent of the relative location of the nodes in the interconnection network. This homogeneity is afforded by a variety of firmware and hardware features such as randomized routing algorithms and cut-through routing, etc. Furthermore, the end user usually does not have explicit control over mapping processes onto physical processors. Therefore, we assume that the transfer of m words of data between any pair of nodes in an interconnection network incurs a cost of ts + mtw. On most architectures, this assumption is reasonably accurate as long as a free link is available between the source and destination nodes for the data to traverse. However, if many pairs of nodes are communicating simultaneously, then the messages may take longer. This can happen if the number of messages passing through a cross-section of the network exceeds the cross-section bandwidth (Section 2.4.4) of the network. In such situations, we need to adjust the value of tw to reflect the slowdown due to congestion. As discussed in Section 2.5.1, we refer to the adjusted value of tw as effective tw. We will make a note in the text when we come across communication operations that may cause congestion on certain networks.

As discussed in Section 2.5.2, the cost of data-sharing among processors in the shared-address-space paradigm can be modeled using the same expression ts + mtw, usually with different values of ts and tw relative to each other as well as relative to the computation speed of the processors of the parallel computer. Therefore, parallel algorithms requiring one or more of the interaction patterns discussed in this chapter can be assumed to incur costs whose expression is close to one derived in the context of message-passing.

In the following sections we describe various communication operations and derive expressions for their time complexity. We assume that the interconnection network supports cut-through routing (Section 2.5.1) and that the communication time between any pair of nodes is practically independent of of the number of intermediate nodes along the paths between them. We also assume that the communication links are bidirectional; that is, two directly-connected nodes can send messages of size m to each other simultaneously in time ts + twm. We assume a single-port communication model, in which a node can send a message on only one of its links at a time. Similarly, it can receive a message on only one link at a time. However, a node can receive a message while sending another message at the same time on the same or a different link.

Many of the operations described here have duals and other related operations that we can perform by using procedures very similar to those for the original operations. The dual of a communication operation is the opposite of the original operation and can be performed by reversing the direction and sequence of messages in the original operation. We will mention such operations wherever applicable.

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