Parallel Scientific Computation: A Structured Approach using BSP and MPI

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Ami Marowka


Parallel Scientific Computation: A Structured Approach using BSP and MPI
Rob H. Bisseling
Hardcover: 324 pages
Oxford University Press, USA (May 6, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN: 0198529392

In spite of many efforts, no solid framework exists for developing parallel software that is portable and efficient across various parallel architectures. The lack of such framework is mostly due to the absence of a universal model of parallel computation, which can play a role similar to that which Von Neumann’s model plays for the sequential computing, and inhibit the diversity of the existing parallel architecture and parallel programming models.

Bulk Synchronous Parallel (BSP) is a parallel computing model proposed by Valiant in 1989, which provides a useful and elegant theoretical framework for bridging the gap between parallel hardware and software. This model comprises a computer archicture (BSP computer), a class of algorithms (BSP algorithm), and a performance model (BSP cost function). The attraction of BSP model lays in its simplicity. A BSP computer consists of collection of processors, each with private memory, and a communication network. A BSP algorithm consists of a sequence of supersteps. A superstep contains either a number of computation steps or a number of communication steps, followed by global barrier synchronization. A BSP performance cost function is based on four parameters: number of processors (p), processor computing rate (r), the ratio between the computation time and communication time (g), and the synchronization cost (l).

In Parallel Scientific Computation: A Structured Approach using BSP and MPI, Rob Bisseling provides a practical introduction to the area of numerical scientific computation by using BSPlib communication library in parallel algorithm design and parallel programming. Each chapter contains: an abstract; a brief discussion of sequential algorithm included to make the material self-contain; the design and analysis of a parallel algorithm; an annotated program text; illustrative experimental results of an implementation on a particular parallel computer; bibliographic notes; theoretical and practical exercises. The source files of the printed program texts, together with a set of test programs that demonstrate their use, form a package called BSPedupack, which is available at the official home page of the book. Researchers, students, and savvy professionals, schooled in hardware or software, will value Bisseling's self-study approach to parallel scientific programming. After all, this is the first textbook provides a comprehensive overview of the technical aspects of building parallel programs using BSP.

The book opens with an overview of BSP model and BSPlib, which tell you how to get started with writing BSP programs, and how to benchmark your computer as a BSP computer. Chapter 2 on dense LU decomposition presents a regular computation with communication patterns that are common in matrix computations. Chapter 3 on the FFT also treats a regular computation but one with a more complex flow of data. Chapter 4 presents the multiplication of a sparse matrix and dense vector. Appendix C presents MPI programs in the order of the corresponding BSP programs appear in the main text.

The book includes a reasonable amount of real world examples, which support the theoretical aspects of the discussions. It is easy to follow and includes logical and consistent exposition and clear descriptions of basic and advanced techniques.

Being a textbook, it contains various exercises and project assignments at the end of each chapter. However, sample solutions for these exercises are still not available. Perhaps an accompanying CD carrying the sample solutions and tutorials for use in the classroom would have added to the academic value of the book. However, the bibliographic notes given at the ends of each chapter, as well as the references at the end of the book, are quite useful for those interested in exploring the subject of BSP development further.

The book is contemporary, well presented, and balanced between concepts and the technical depth required for developing parallel algorithms. Although the book takes a simple performance view of parallel algorithms design, readers should have some basic knowledge of parallel computing, data structures, and C programming. Overall, the book is suitable as a textbook for one-term undergraduate or graduate courses, as a self-study book, or as technical training material for professionals.

Ami Marowka
Department of Software Engineering
Shenkar College of Engineering and Design
Ramat-Gan, Israel.

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