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Low-Latency Communication on the IBM RISC System/6000 SPgif 

Chi-Chao Chang, Grzegorz Czajkowski, Chris Hawblitzel,
and Thorsten von Eicken
Department of Computer Science
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853


The IBM SP is one of the most powerful commercial MPPs, yet, in spite of its fast processors and high network bandwidth, the SP's communication latency is inferior to older machines such as the TMC CM-5 or Meiko CS-2. This paper investigates the use of Active Messages (AM) communication primitives as an alternative to the standard message passing in order to reduce communication overheads and to offer a good building block for higher layers of software.

The first part of this paper describes an implementation of Active Messages (SP AM) which is layered directly on top of the SP's network adapter (TB2). With comparable bandwidth, SP AM's low overhead yields a round-trip latency that is 40% lower than IBM MPL's. The second part of the paper demonstrates the power of AM as a communication substrate by layering Split-C as well as MPI over it. Split-C benchmarks are used to compare the SP to other MPPs and show that low message overhead and high throughput compensate for SP's high network latency. The MPI implementation is based on the freely available MPICH version and achieves performance equivalent to IBM's MPI-F on the NAS benchmarks.

Chris Hawblitzel
Thu Sep 19 12:22:33 EDT 1996