237. General

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In a thread-compliant implementation, an MPI process is a process that may be multi-threaded. Each thread can issue MPI calls; however, threads are not separately addressable: a rank in a send or receive call identifies a process, not a thread. A message sent to a process can be received by any thread in this process.


This model corresponds to the POSIX model of interprocess communication: the fact that a process is multi-threaded, rather than single-threaded, does not affect the external interface of this process. MPI implementations where MPI `processes' are POSIX threads inside a single POSIX process are not thread-compliant by this definition (indeed, their ``processes'' are single-threaded). ( End of rationale.)

Advice to users.

It is the user's responsibility to prevent races when threads within the same application post conflicting communication calls. The user can make sure that two threads in the same process will not issue conflicting communication calls by using distinct communicators at each thread. ( End of advice to users.)
The two main requirements for a thread-compliant implementation are listed below.

    1. All MPI calls are thread-safe, i.e., two concurrently running threads may make MPI calls and the outcome will be as if the calls executed in some order, even if their execution is interleaved.
    2. Blocking MPI calls will block the calling thread only, allowing another thread to execute, if available. The calling thread will be blocked until the event on which it is waiting occurs. Once the blocked communication is enabled and can proceed, then the call will complete and the thread will be marked runnable, within a finite time. A blocked thread will not prevent progress of other runnable threads on the same process, and will not prevent them from executing MPI calls.

Example Process 0 consists of two threads. The first thread executes a blocking send call MPI_Send(buff1, count, type, 0, 0, comm), whereas the second thread executes a blocking receive call MPI_Recv(buff2, count, type, 0, 0, comm, &status), i.e., the first thread sends a message that is received by the second thread. This communication should always succeed. According to the first requirement, the execution will correspond to some interleaving of the two calls. According to the second requirement, a call can only block the calling thread and cannot prevent progress of the other thread. If the send call went ahead of the receive call, then the sending thread may block, but this will not prevent the receiving thread from executing. Thus, the receive call will occur. Once both calls occur, the communication is enabled and both calls will complete. On the other hand, a single-threaded process that posts a send, followed by a matching receive, may deadlock. The progress requirement for multithreaded implementations is stronger, as a blocked call cannot prevent progress in other threads.

Advice to implementors.

MPI calls can be made thread-safe by executing only one at a time, e.g., by protecting MPI code with one process-global lock. However, blocked operations cannot hold the lock, as this would prevent progress of other threads in the process. The lock is held only for the duration of an atomic, locally-completing suboperation such as posting a send or completing a send, and is released in between. Finer locks can provide more concurrency, at the expense of higher locking overheads. Concurrency can also be achieved by having some of the MPI protocol executed by separate server threads. ( End of advice to implementors.)

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