Report Number: CSL-TR-93-593
Institution: Stanford University, Computer Systems Laboratory
Title: The Performance Advantages of Integrating Message Passing in Cache-Coherent Multiprocessors
Author: Woo, Steven Cameron
Author: Singh, Jaswinder Pal
Author: Hennessy, John L.
Date: November 1993
Abstract: We examine the performance benefits of integrating a mechanism for block data transfer (message passing) in a cache-coherent shared address space multiprocessor. We do this through a detailed study of five important computations that appear to be likely candidates for block transfer. We find that while the benefits on a realistic architecture are significant in some cases, they are not as substantial as one might initially expect. The main reasons for this are (i) the relatively modest fraction of time that applications spend in communication that is amenable to block transfer, (ii) the difficulty of finding enough independent computation to overlap with the communication latency that remains even after block transfer, and (iii) the fact that long cache lines often capture many of the benefits of block transfer. Of the three primary advantages of block transfer, fast pipelined data transfer appears to be the most successful, followed by the ability to overlap computation and communication at a coarse granularity, and finally the benefits of replicating communicated data in main memory. We also examine the impact of varying important network parameters and processor speed on the relative effectiveness of block transfer, and comment on useful features that a block transfer engine should support for real applications.