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Chapter 9. Sorting

Sorting is one of the most common operations performed by a computer. Because sorted data are easier to manipulate than randomly-ordered data, many algorithms require sorted data. Sorting is of additional importance to parallel computing because of its close relation to the task of routing data among processes, which is an essential part of many parallel algorithms. Many parallel sorting algorithms have been investigated for a variety of parallel computer architectures. This chapter presents several parallel sorting algorithms for PRAM, mesh, hypercube, and general shared-address-space and message-passing architectures.

Sorting is defined as the task of arranging an unordered collection of elements into monotonically increasing (or decreasing) order. Specifically, let S = <a1, a2, ..., an > be a sequence of n elements in arbitrary order; sorting transforms S into a monotonically increasing sequence graphics/09fig01.gif such that graphics/09fig02.gif for 1 i j n, and S' is a permutation of S.

Sorting algorithms are categorized as internal or external. In internal sorting, the number of elements to be sorted is small enough to fit into the process's main memory. In contrast, external sorting algorithms use auxiliary storage (such as tapes and hard disks) for sorting because the number of elements to be sorted is too large to fit into memory. This chapter concentrates on internal sorting algorithms only.

Sorting algorithms can be categorized as comparison-based and noncomparison-based. A comparison-based algorithm sorts an unordered sequence of elements by repeatedly comparing pairs of elements and, if they are out of order, exchanging them. This fundamental operation of comparison-based sorting is called compare-exchange. The lower bound on the sequential complexity of any sorting algorithms that is comparison-based is Q(n log n), where n is the number of elements to be sorted. Noncomparison-based algorithms sort by using certain known properties of the elements (such as their binary representation or their distribution). The lower-bound complexity of these algorithms is Q(n). We concentrate on comparison-based sorting algorithms in this chapter, although we briefly discuss some noncomparison-based sorting algorithms in Section 9.6.

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