Map/reduce is a very powerful method of parallelising an algorithm. The idea is that you map the problem to be solved into a loop over a large number of iterations. The iterations of the loop are then divided equally between a team of processes, with each process performing its allocation of iterations, and thus solving its own part of the problem, computing the result in process-local variables. Once all of the process’s iterations are complete, all of the process-local computed variables are combined together (reduced) via MPI_Reduce to form the final global result.

We have now covered enough that we can use MPI to parallelise a map/reduce style calculation. In this case, the problem we will solve will be calculating the total interaction energy between each ion in an array of ions with a single reference ion. Passed into this function will be the reference ion, and an array of ions. The algorithm performed for each ion in the array will be;

Map/reduce can be used when you have an array of data, a function you wish to apply (to map) to each item in the array, and a single value you want back that is the reduction of the results of applying the function to each item in the array. In terms of map/reduce, our algorithm would look like this;

Here are incomplete pieces of code that implement this algorithm (note that this is to provide an example of how map/reduce can be used - you don’t need to complete this code);

Please look at, compile and try to run the code, using different numbers of processes in the MPI team.

Note that, in this example, the position of the reference ion and the positions of the array of ions must be shared amongst all processes. This could have been achieved by having the master process use MPI_Send to send the data individually to each worker process, and having each worker process use MPI_Recv to receive the data. While this is easy to program, matching MPI_Send / MPI_Recv pairs has a potential for programmer error. To simplify things, and to make the communication more efficient, MPI provides the function, MPI_Bcast. MPI_Bcast broadcasts a message from one process to all other processes in the team. Calling MPI_Bcast in the master process is equivalent to calling MPI_Send sequentially to all of the worker processes. Calling MPI_Bcast in a worker process is equivalent to calling MPI_Recv to receive a message from the master process.

Note that the amount of MPI in this examples is very low. Essentially, MPI_Bcast is used to map all of the data across all of the processes in the team at the start of the program, and then MPI_Reduce is used to reduce the computed result back to the master process at the end of the program. Ideally, such a simple, limited use of MPI should be the norm for MPI programs. Most of the work of parallelisation should be organising your code so that it can be parallelised. Once it has been organised, you then only need to add calls to a small number of MPI functions that share the data amongst the team, and then reduce the results back to the master.

Compare with OpenMP

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