P. Balaji, D. Buntinas, S. Balay, B. Smith, R. Thakur, and W. Gropp, "Nonuniformly Communicating Noncontiguous Data: A Case Study with PETSc and MPI," Preprint ANL/MCS-P1380-1006, October 2006. [pdf]
Due to the complexity associated with developing parallel applications, scientists and engineers rely on high-level software libraries such as PETSc, ScaLAPACK, and PESSL to ease this task. Such libraries assist developers by providing abstractions for mathematical operations, data representation and management of parallel layouts of the data, while internally using communication libraries such as MPI and PVM. With high-level libraries managing data layout and communication internally, it can be expected that they organize application data suitably for performing the library operations optimally. However, this places additional overhead on the underlying communication library by making the data layout noncontiguous in memory and communication volumes (data transferred by a process to each of the other processes) nonuniform. In this paper, we analyze the overheads associated with these two aspects (noncontiguous data layouts and nonuniform communication volumes) in the context of the PETSc software toolkit over the MPI communication library. We describe the issues with the current approaches used by MPICH2 (an implementation of MPI), propose different approaches to handle these issues and evaluate these approaches with micro-benchmarks as well as an application over the PETSc software library. Our experimental results demonstrate close to an order of magnitude improvement in the performance of a 3-D Laplacian multi-grid solver application when evaluated on a 128-processor cluster.