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Simulation Framework and Synchronization Control

The original structure of multiple data-parallel function emulations executing concurrently was left intact by this evolution. The supporting services and means of synchronizing the various activities have evolved considerably, however.

The execution of the simulation as shown in Figure 18.9 is synchronized rather simply. Refer now to Figure 18.13. By the structure of the desired activities, sensor data are sent to the Trackers, their tracks are sent to the Battle Planner, and the battle plans are returned to the Environment Generator (which calculates the effects of any defensive actions taken). The exchange of mono tracks shown is a communication internal to the Tracker's two subcubes.

Figure: The Simulation of Figure 18.9 is Controlled by a Pipeline Synchronization

The simulation initiates by having each module forward its data to the next unit in the pipeline and then read its input data as initialization for the first set of computations. At initialization, all messages are null except the sensor messages from the Environment Generator. In the first computation cycle, only the Tracker is active; the Battle Planner has no tracks. After the tracker completes its initial sensor data processing (described in detail later in the chapter), the resulting tracks are forwarded to the Battle Planner, which starts computing its first battle plan while the Tracker is working on the second set of sensor data-a computational pipeline, or round, has been established. When an element finishes with a given work segment, the results are forwarded and that element then waits if necessary for the data that initiates the next work segment. Convenient, effective, but hardly of the generality of, say, Time Warp  (described in Section 15.3) as a means of concurrency control.

Yet a full implementation of Time Warp is not necessarily required here even in the most general circumstances. Remember that Time Warp implements a general but pure discrete event simulation. Its objective-speedup-is achieved by capitalizing on the functional parallelism inherent in all the multiple objects, analogous to the multiple functions being described here. It permits the concurrent execution of the needed procedures and ensures a correct simulation via rollback when the inevitable time accidents occur. In the type of simulation discussed here, not only is speedup often not the goal, but when it is, it is largely obtained via the data parallelism of each function and load-balanced  by the judicious assignment of the correct number of processors to each. The speedup due to functional parallelism can be small and good performance can still result. A means of assuring a correct simulation, however, is crucial.

We have experimented with several synchronization schemes that will ensure this correctness even when the simulation is of a generality illustrated by Figure 18.11. The most straightforward of these is termed time buckets   and is useful whenever one can structure a simulation where activities taking place in one time interval, or bucket, can only have effects later on in the next or succeeding time buckets.

The initial implementation of the time bucket approach was in conjunction with an SDS communications simulation, one that sought to treat in higher fidelity the communications activities implicit in Figure 18.11. In this simulation, the emulators of the communications processors aboard each satellite and the participating ground stations were distributed across the nodes of the Mark III hypercube. In the most primitive implementation, each node would emulate the role of a single satellite's comm processor; messages would be physically passed via the hypercube comm channels and a rather complete emulation would result.

Since the correspondence to the real world is not perfect-actual hypercube comm delays are not equal to the satellite-to-satellite light time delays, for example, this emulation must be controlled and synchronized just like a conventional discrete-event parallel simulation if time accidents are not to occur and invalidate the results. Figure 18.14 shows the use of the time bucket approach for synchronization in this situation. The key is to note that, because of the geometries involved there is a minimum light time delay between any two satellites. If the processing is done in time steps-time buckets, if you will-of less than this delay, it is possible to ensure that accidents will never occur.

Figure 18.14: The Time Bucket Approach to Synchronization Control

Referring to Figure 18.14, assume each of the processors is released at time and is free to process all messages in its input queue up to and including the time bucket's duration without regard to any coordination of the progress of simulation time in the other nodes. Since the minimum light time delay is longer than this bucket, it is not possible for a remote node to send a message and have it received (in simulation time) interior to the free processing time; no accidents can occur. Each node then processes all its events up to a simulation time advance of one time bucket. It waits until all processors have reached the same point and all messages-new events from outside nodes-have been received and placed properly in their local event queues. When all processors have finished, the next time bucket can be entered.

The maximum rate that simulation time can advance is, of course, determined by the slowest node to complete in each time bucket. If proceeding is desired, not as rapidly as possible but in real time (i.e., maintaining a close one-to-one correspondence between elapsed wall clock and simulation time), the nodes can additionally wait for the wall clock to catch up to simulation time before proceeding; this behavior is illustrated in Figure 18.4.

While described as a communication simulation, this is a rather general technique. It can be used whenever the simulation modules can reasonably obey the constraint that they not schedule events shorter than into the future for objects external to the local node. It can work efficiently whenever the density of events/processor is significantly greater than unity for this same . A useful view of this technique is that the simulation is fully parallel and event-driven interior to a time bucket, but is controlled by an implicit global controller and is a time-stepped simulation with respect to coarser time resolutions.

Implementation varies. The communication simulation just described was hosted on the Mark III and took advantage of the global lines to coordinate the processor release times. In more general circumstances where globals are not available, an alternative time service [Li:91a] has been implemented and is currently used for a network-based parallel Strategic Air Defense simulation.

Where a fixed time step does not give adequate results, an alternate technique implementing an adaptive has been proposed and investigated [Steinman:91a]. This technique, termed breathing time buckets, is notionally diagrammed in Figure 18.15. Pictured there are the local event queues for two nodes. These event queues are complete and ordered at the assumed synchronized start of cycle simulation time. The object of the initial processing is to determine a ``global event horizon'' which is defined as the time of the earliest new event that will be generated by the subsequent processing. Current events prior to that time may be processed in all the nodes without fear of time accidents. This time is determined by having each node optimistically process its own local events, but withhold the sending of messages, until it has reached a simulation time where the next event to be processed is a ``new'' event. The time reached is called the ``local event horizon.'' Once every node has determined its local horizon, a global minimum is determined and equated to the global event horizon. All nodes then roll back  their local objects to that simulation time (easy since no messages have been sent) send the messages that are valid, and commit to the event processing up to that point.

Figure 18.15: Breathing Time Buckets as a Means of Synchronization Control

In implementation, there are many refinements and extensions of these basic ideas in order to optimize performance, but this is the fundamental construct. It is proving to be relatively easily implemented, gives good performance in a variety of circumstances, and has even outperformed Time Warp in some cases [Steinman:92a].

Synchronization control is but one issue, albeit the most widely discussed and debated, in building a general framework to support this class of simulation. Viewed from the perspective of cooperative high performance computing, the Simulation Framework can be seen as services needed by the individual applications programmer, but not provided by the network or parallel computer operating system. Providing support for:

in addition to synchronization control, are all important issues currently under active investigation and implementation.

next up previous contents index
Next: 18.4 Multitarget Tracking Up: 18.3 Parallel Simulations that Previous: 18.3.3 SDI Simulation Evolution

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