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Problem Architecture and Message-Passing Fortran


Here we discuss the trade off between message-passing and data-parallel languages   from the problem architecture point of view developed in Chapter 3.

We return to Figure 3.4, which expressed computation as a sequence of maps. We elaborate this in Figure 13.2, concentrating on the map of the (numerical formulation of the) problem onto the computer . This map could be performed in several stages reflecting the different software levels. Here, we are interested in the high-level software map . One often refers to as the virtual machine  (VM), since one can think of it as abstracting the specific real machine into a generic VM. One could perhaps more accurately consider it as a virtual problem, since one is expressing the details of a particular problem in the language of a general problem of a certain class. Naively, one can say in Figure 13.2 that is ``nearer'' the problem than the computer. One often thought of CMFortran as a language for SIMD machines. This is not accurate-rather, it is a language for synchronous problems (i.e., a particular problem architecture) which can be executed on all machine architectures. This is illustrated by the use of CMFortran on the MIMD CM-5 and the HPF (FortranD) discussion of the previous subsection. These issues are summarized in Table 13.5. Generally, we believe that high-level software systems should be based on a study of problems and their architectures rather than on machine characteristics.

Figure 13.2: Architecture of ``Virtual Problem'' Determines Nature of High-Level Language

Figure 13.3 (Color Plate) illustrates the map of problem onto machine, emphasizing the different architectures of both. Here we regard message passing as a (low-level ) paradigm that is naturally associated with a particular machine architecture, that is, it does reflect a virtual  machine-the generic MIMD architecture. One has a trade off in languages between features optimized for a particular problem class against those optimized for particular machine architectures. This figure is also drawn so as to emphasize that HPF corresponds to a ``near'' the problem and Fortran-plus message passing is a paradigm ``near'' the computer.

Figure 13.3: Problem architectures mapped into machine architectures.

Figure 13.4 (Color Plate) illustrates the compilation and migration processes from this point of view. HPF is a language that reflects the problem structure. It is difficult but possible to produce a compiler that maps it onto the two machine (SIMD and MIMD) architectures in the figure. Fortran-plus message passing expresses the MIMD computer architecture. It is typically harder for the user to express the problem in this paradigm than in the higher level HPF. However, it is quite easy for the operating system to map explicit message passing efficiently onto a MIMD architecture. However, this is not true if one wishes to map message passing to a different architecture (such as a SIMD machine) where one must essentially convert (``compile'') the message passing back to the HPF  expression of the problem. This is typically impossible as the message-passing formulation does not have all the necessary information contained in it. Expressing a problem in a specific language often ``hides'' information about the problem that is essential for parallelization. This is why much of the existing Fortran 77 sequential code cannot be parallelized. Critical information about the underlying problem cannot be discovered except at run time when it is hard to exploit. We discuss this point in more detail in the following subsection.

Figure 13.4: migration and compilation in the map of problems to computers.

Table 13.5: Message Passing, Data-Parallel Fortran, Problem Architectures

next up previous contents index
Next: 13.1.3 Problem Architecture and Up: 13.1 High-Level Languages Previous: 13.1.1 High Performance Fortran

Guy Robinson
Wed Mar 1 10:19:35 EST 1995