Message passing and shared address space parallelism on an SMP cluster

Hongzhang Shan, Jaswinder Pal Singh, Leonid Oliker, Rupak Biswas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Currently, message passing (MP) and shared address space (SAS) are the two leading parallel programming paradigms. MP has been standardized with MPI, and is the more common and mature approach; however, code development can be extremely difficult, especially for irregularly structured computations. SAS offers substantial ease of programming, but may suffer from performance limitations due to poor spatial locality and high protocol overhead. In this paper, we compare the performance of and the programming effort required for six applications under both programming models on a 32-processor PC-SMP cluster, a platform that is becoming increasingly attractive for high-end scientific computing. Our application suite consists of codes that typically do not exhibit scalable performance under shared-memory programming due to their high communication-to-computation ratios and/or complex communication patterns. Results indicate that SAS can achieve about half the parallel efficiency of MPI for most of our applications, while being competitive for the others. A hybrid MPI+SAS strategy shows only a small performance advantage over pure MPI in some cases. Finally, improved implementations of two MPI collective operations on PC-SMP clusters are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-186
Number of pages20
JournalParallel Computing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Artificial Intelligence


  • Benchmark applications
  • Distributed shared memory
  • Message passing
  • PC cluster
  • Parallel performance


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