Load balancing and data locality in adaptive hierarchical N-body methods: Barnes-hut, fast multipole, and radiosity

Jaswinder Pal Singh, Chris Holt, Takashi Totsuka, Anoop Gupta, John Hennessy

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132 Scopus citations


Hierarchical N-body methods, which are based on a fundamental insight into the nature of many physical processes, are increasingly being used to solve large-scale problems in a variety of scientific/engineering domains. Applications that use these methods are challenging to parallelize effectively, however, owing to their nonuniform, dynamically changing characteristics and their need for long-range communication. In this paper, we study the partitioning and scheduling techniques required to obtain effective parallel performance on applications that use a range of hierarchical N-body methods. To obtain representative coverage, we first examine applications that use the two best methods known for classical N-body problems: the Barnes-Hut method and the fast multipole method. Then, we examine a recent hierarchical method for radiosity calculations in computer graphics, which applies the hierarchical N-body approach to a problem with very different characteristics. We find that straightforward decomposition techniques which an automatic scheduler might implement do not scale well, because they are unable to simultaneously provide load balancing and data locality. However, all the applications yield very good parallel performance if appropriate partitioning and scheduling techniques are implemented by the programmer. For the applications that use the Barnes-Hut and fast multipole methods, simple yet effective partitioning techniques can be developed by exploiting some key insights into both the methods and the classical problems that they solve. Using a novel partitioning technique, even relatively small problems achieve 45-fold speedups on a 48-processor Stanford DASH machine (a cache-coherent, shared address space multiprocessor) and 118-fold speedups on a 128-processor simulated architecture. The very different characteristics of the radiosity application require a different partitioning/scheduling approach to be used for it; however, it too yields very good parallel performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-141
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Parallel and Distributed Computing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1995
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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