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6.1 Computational Issues in SynchronousProblems


Synchronous problems have been defined in Section 3.4 as having the simplest temporal or computational structure. The problems are typically defined by a regular grid, as illustrated in Figure 4.3, and are parallelized by a simple domain decomposition. A synchronous temporal structure  corresponds to each point in the data domain being evolved with an identical computational algorithm, and we summarize this in the caricature shown in Figure 6.1. We find several important synchronous problems in the academic applications, which formed the core of CP's work. We expect-as shown in Chapter 19-that the ``real world'' (industry and government) will show fewer problems of the synchronous class. One hopes that a fundamental theory will describe phenomena in terms of simple elegant and uniform laws; these are likely to lead to a synchronous or computational (temporal) structure. On the other hand, real-world problems typically involve macroscopic phenomenological models as opposed to fundamental theories of the microscopic world. Correspondingly, we find in the real world more loosely synchronous problems that only exhibit macroscopic temporal synchronization.

Figure 6.1: The Synchronous Problem Class

There is no black-and-white definition of synchronous since, practically, we allow some violations of the rigorous microscopic synchronization. This is already seen in Section 4.2's discussion of the irregularity of Monte Carlo  ``accept-reject'' algorithms. A deeper example is irregular geometry problems, such as the partial differential equations of Chapters 9 and 12 with an irregular mesh. The simplest of these can be implemented well on SIMD machines as long as each node can access different addresses. In the High Performance Fortran analysis of Chapter 13, there is a class of problems lacking the regular grid of Figure 4.3. They cannot be expressed in terms of Fortran 90 with arrays of values. However, the simpler irregular meshes are topologically rectangular-they can be expressed in Fortran 90 with an array of pointers. The SIMD Maspar  MP-1,2 supports this node-dependent addressing and has termed this an ``autonomous SIMD'' feature. We believe that just as SIMD is not a precise computer architecture, the synchronous problem class will also inevitably be somewhat vague, with some problems having architectures in a grey area between synchronous and loosely synchronous.

The applications described in Chapter 4 were all run on MIMD machines using the message-passing model of Chapter 5. Excellent speedups were obtained. Interestingly, even when CP acquired a SIMD CM-2, which also supported this problem class well, we found it hard to move onto this machine because of the different software model-the data parallel languages of Chapter 13-offered by SIMD machines. The development of High Performance Fortran, reviewed in Section 13.1, now offers the same data-parallel programming model on SIMD and MIMD machines for synchronous problems. Currently, nobody has efficiently ported the message-passing model to SIMD machines-even with the understanding that it would only be effective for synchronous problems. It may be that with the last obvious restriction, the message-passing model could be implemented on SIMD machines.

This chapter includes a set of neural network  applications. This is an important class of naturally parallel problems, and represents one approach to answering the question:

``How can one apply massively parallel machines to artificial intelligence  (AI)?''

We were asked this many times at the start of CP, since AI was one of the foremost fields in computer science at the time. Today, the initial excitement behind the Japanese fifth-generation project has abated and AI has transitioned to a routine production technology which is perhaps more limited than originally believed. Interestingly, the neural network approach leads to synchronous structure, whereas the complementary actor or expert system approaches have a very different asynchronous structure. The high temperature superconductivity  calculations in Section 6.3 made a major impact on the condensed matter  community. Quoting from Nature [Maddox:90a]

``Yet some progress seems to have been made. Thus Hong-Qiang Ding and Miloje S. Makivic, from California Institute of Technology, now describe an exceedingly powerful Monte Carlo  calculation of an antiferromagnetic lattice designed to allow for the simulation of (Phys. Rev. Lett. 64, 1,449; 1990). In this context, a Monte Carlo simulation entails starting with an arbitrary arrangement of spins on the lattice, and then changing them in pairs according to rules that allow all spin states to be reached without violating the overall constraints. The authors rightly boast of their access to Caltech's parallel computer system, but they have also devised a new and efficient algorithm for tracing out the evolution of their system. As is the custom in this part of the trade, they have worked with square patches of two-dimensional lattice with as many as 128 lattice spacings to each side.

The outcome is a relationship between correlation length-the distance over which order, on the average, persists-and temperature; briefly, the logarithm of the correlation length is inversely proportional to the temperature. That, apparently, contradicts other models of the ordering process. In lanthanum copper oxide, the correlation length agrees well with that measured by neutron diffraction below (where there is a phase transition), provided the interaction energy is chosen appropriately. For what it is worth, that energy is not very different from estimates derived from Raman-scattering experiments, which provide a direct measurement of the energy of interaction by the change of frequency of the scattered light.''

The hypercube allowed much larger high- calculations than the previous state of the art, with conventional machines. Curiously, with QCD simulations (described in Section 4.3), we were only able at best to match the size of the Cray  calculations of other groups. This probably reflects different cultures and computational expectations of the QCD and condensed matter  communities. CP had the advantage of dedicated facilities and could devote them to the most interesting applications.

Section 6.2 describes an early calculation, which was a continuation of our collaboration with Sandia on nCUBE  applications. They, of course, followed this with a major internal activity, including their impressive performance analysis  of 1024-node applications [Gustafson:88a]. There were several other synchronous applications in CP that we will not describe in this book. Wasson solved the single-particle Schrödinger equation in a regular grid to study the ground state of nuclear matter  as a function of temperature and pressure. His approach used the time-dependent Hartree-Fock method, but was never taken past the stage of preliminary calculations on the early Mark II machines [Wasson:87a]. There were also two interesting signal-processing algorithms. Pollara implemented the Viterbi  algorithm for convolutional  decoding of data sent on noisy communication channels [Pollara:85a], [Pollara:86a]. This has similarities with the Cooley-Tukey binary FFT  parallelization described in [Fox:88a]. We also looked at alternatives to this binary FFT in a collaboration with Aloisio from the Italian Space Agency. The prime number (nonbinary) discrete Fourier transform produces a more irregular communication pattern than the binary FFT and, further, the node calculations are less easy to pipeline than the conventional FFT. Thus, it is hard to achieve the theoretical advantage of the nonbinary FFT. This often has less floating-point operations needed for a given analysis whose natural problem size may not be the power of two demanded by the binary FFT

[Aloisio:88a;89b;90b;91a;91b]. This parallel discrete FFT was designed for synthetic aperture radar applications for the analysis of satellite data [Aloisio:90c;90d].

The applications in Sections 6.7.3, 6.5, and 6.6 use the important multiscale  approach to a variety of vision or image processing  problems. Essentially, all physical problems are usefully considered at several different length scales, and we will come back to this in Chapters 9 and 12 when we study partial differential equations (multigrid) and practice dynamics (fast multipole).

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Next: Convectively-Dominated Flows and Up: 6 Synchronous Applications II Previous: 6 Synchronous Applications II

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