4. Overview and Goals

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MPI (Message-Passing Interface) is a message-passing library interface specification. All parts of this definition are significant. MPI addresses primarily the message-passing parallel programming model, in which data is moved from the address space of one process to that of another process through cooperative operations on each process. (Extensions to the ``classical'' message-passing model are provided in collective operations, remote-memory access operations, dynamic process creation, and parallel I/O.) MPI is a specification, not an implementation; there are multiple implementations of MPI. This specification is for a library interface; MPI is not a language, and all MPI operations are expressed as functions, subroutines, or methods, according to the appropriate language bindings, which for C, C++, Fortran-77, and Fortran-95, are part of the MPI standard. The standard has been defined through an open process by a community of parallel computing vendors, computer scientists, and application developers. The next few sections provide an overview of the history of MPI's development.

The main advantages of establishing a message-passing standard are portability and ease of use. In a distributed memory communication environment in which the higher level routines and/or abstractions are built upon lower level message-passing routines the benefits of standardization are particularly apparent. Furthermore, the definition of a message-passing standard, such as that proposed here, provides vendors with a clearly defined base set of routines that they can implement efficiently, or in some cases provide hardware support for, thereby enhancing scalability.

The goal of the Message-Passing Interface simply stated is to develop a widely used standard for writing message-passing programs. As such the interface should establish a practical, portable, efficient, and flexible standard for message passing.

A complete list of goals follows.

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