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4.7 Improving the Speed of Some Communication Operations

So far in this chapter, we have derived procedures for various communication operations and their communication times under the assumptions that the original messages could not be split into smaller parts and that each node had a single port for sending and receiving data. In this section, we briefly discuss the impact of relaxing these assumptions on some of the communication operations.

4.7.1 Splitting and Routing Messages in Parts

In the procedures described in Sections 4.1-4.6, we assumed that an entire m-word packet of data travels between the source and the destination nodes along the same path. If we split large messages into smaller parts and then route these parts through different paths, we can sometimes utilize the communication network better. We have already shown that, with a few exceptions like one-to-all broadcast, all-to-one reduction, all-reduce, etc., the communication operations discussed in this chapter are asymptotically optimal for large messages; that is, the terms associated with tw in the costs of these operations cannot be reduced asymptotically. In this section, we present asymptotically optimal algorithms for three global communication operations.

Note that the algorithms of this section rely on m being large enough to be split into p roughly equal parts. Therefore, the earlier algorithms are still useful for shorter messages. A comparison of the cost of the algorithms in this section with those presented earlier in this chapter for the same operations would reveal that the term associated with ts increases and the term associated with tw decreases when the messages are split. Therefore, depending on the actual values of ts, tw, and p, there is a cut-off value for the message size m and only the messages longer than the cut-off would benefit from the algorithms in this section.

One-to-All Broadcast

Consider broadcasting a single message M of size m from one source node to all the nodes in a p-node ensemble. If m is large enough so that M can be split into p parts M0, M1, ..., M p-1 of size m/p each, then a scatter operation (Section 4.4) can place Mi on node i in time ts log p + tw(m/p)(p - 1). Note that the desired result of the one-to-all broadcast is to place M = M0M1···Mp-1 on all nodes. This can be accomplished by an all-to-all broadcast of the messages of size m/p residing on each node after the scatter operation. This all-to-all broadcast can be completed in time ts log p + tw(m/p)(p - 1) on a hypercube. Thus, on a hypercube, one-to-all broadcast can be performed in time

Equation 4.13


Compared to Equation 4.1, this algorithm has double the startup cost, but the cost due to the tw term has been reduced by a factor of (log p)/2. Similarly, one-to-all broadcast can be improved on linear array and mesh interconnection networks as well.

All-to-One Reduction

All-to-one reduction is a dual of one-to-all broadcast. Therefore, an algorithm for all-to-one reduction can be obtained by reversing the direction and the sequence of communication in one-to-all broadcast. We showed above how an optimal one-to-all broadcast algorithm can be obtained by performing a scatter operation followed by an all-to-all broadcast. Therefore, using the notion of duality, we should be able to perform an all-to-one reduction by performing all-to-all reduction (dual of all-to-all broadcast) followed by a gather operation (dual of scatter). We leave the details of such an algorithm as an exercise for the reader (Problem 4.17).


Since an all-reduce operation is semantically equivalent to an all-to-one reduction followed by a one-to-all broadcast, the asymptotically optimal algorithms for these two operations presented above can be used to construct a similar algorithm for the all-reduce operation. Breaking all-to-one reduction and one-to-all broadcast into their component operations, it can be shown that an all-reduce operation can be accomplished by an all-to-all reduction followed by a gather followed by a scatter followed by an all-to-all broadcast. Since the intermediate gather and scatter would simply nullify each other's effect, all-reduce just requires an all-to-all reduction and an all-to-all broadcast. First, the m-word messages on each of the p nodes are logically split into p components of size roughly m/p words. Then, an all-to-all reduction combines all the i th components on pi. After this step, each node is left with a distinct m/p-word component of the final result. An all-to-all broadcast can construct the concatenation of these components on each node.

A p-node hypercube interconnection network allows all-to-one reduction and one-to-all broadcast involving messages of size m/p in time ts log p + tw(m/p)(p - 1) each. Therefore, the all-reduce operation can be completed in time

Equation 4.14


4.7.2 All-Port Communication

In a parallel architecture, a single node may have multiple communication ports with links to other nodes in the ensemble. For example, each node in a two-dimensional wraparound mesh has four ports, and each node in a d-dimensional hypercube has d ports. In this book, we generally assume what is known as the single-port communication model. In single-port communication, a node can send data on only one of its ports at a time. Similarly, a node can receive data on only one port at a time. However, a node can send and receive data simultaneously, either on the same port or on separate ports. In contrast to the single-port model, an all-port communication model permits simultaneous communication on all the channels connected to a node.

On a p-node hypercube with all-port communication, the coefficients of tw in the expressions for the communication times of one-to-all and all-to-all broadcast and personalized communication are all smaller than their single-port counterparts by a factor of log p. Since the number of channels per node for a linear array or a mesh is constant, all-port communication does not provide any asymptotic improvement in communication time on these architectures.

Despite the apparent speedup, the all-port communication model has certain limitations. For instance, not only is it difficult to program, but it requires that the messages are large enough to be split efficiently among different channels. In several parallel algorithms, an increase in the size of messages means a corresponding increase in the granularity of computation at the nodes. When the nodes are working with large data sets, the internode communication time is dominated by the computation time if the computational complexity of the algorithm is higher than the communication complexity. For example, in the case of matrix multiplication, there are n3 computations for n2 words of data transferred among the nodes. If the communication time is a small fraction of the total parallel run time, then improving the communication by using sophisticated techniques is not very advantageous in terms of the overall run time of the parallel algorithm.

Another limitation of all-port communication is that it can be effective only if data can be fetched and stored in memory at a rate sufficient to sustain all the parallel communication. For example, to utilize all-port communication effectively on a p-node hypercube, the memory bandwidth must be greater than the communication bandwidth of a single channel by a factor of at least log p; that is, the memory bandwidth must increase with the number of nodes to support simultaneous communication on all ports. Some modern parallel computers, like the IBM SP, have a very natural solution for this problem. Each node of the distributed-memory parallel computer is a NUMA shared-memory multiprocessor. Multiple ports are then served by separate memory banks and full memory and communication bandwidth can be utilized if the buffers for sending and receiving data are placed appropriately across different memory banks.

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