12.1. Introduction

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MPI is primarily concerned with communication rather than process or resource management. However, it is necessary to address these issues to some degree in order to define a useful framework for communication. This chapter presents a set of MPI interfaces that allows for several approaches to MPI initialization and process management while placing minimal restrictions on the execution environment.

One goal of MPI is to achieve source code portability. By this we mean that a program written using MPI and complying with the relevant language standards is portable as written, and must not require any source code changes when moved from one system to another. This explicitly does not say anything about how an MPI program is started or launched from the command line, nor what the user must do to set up the environment in which an MPI program will run. However, an implementation may require some setup or initialization procedure to be performed before the complete set of MPI routines may be called.

To this end, MPI presents two models for MPI process initialization. In the World Model, an initial set of processes is created that are related by their membership in a common MPI_COMM_WORLD (see Section The World Model) communicator. In the Sessions Model (Section The Sessions Model), an initial set of processes is also created, but the application must explicitly manage the creation of MPI groups, and hence MPI communicators. MPI_COMM_WORLD is only valid for use as a communicator in the World Model, i.e., after a successful call to MPI_INIT or MPI_INIT_THREAD and before a call to MPI_FINALIZE. An application can employ both of these Process Models concurrently. In multi-component MPI applications, for example, a component such as a library can make use of the Sessions Model to instantiate MPI resources without impacting the rest of the application.

The Dynamic Process Model (see Section The Dynamic Process Model), provides for the creation and management of additional processes after an MPI application has been started. A major impetus for the Dynamic Process Model comes from the PVM [26] research effort. This work has provided a wealth of experience with process management and resource control that illustrates their benefits and potential pitfalls.

In developing the Dynamic Process Model, the MPI Forum decided not to address resource control because it was not able to design a portable interface that would be appropriate for the broad spectrum of existing and potential resource and process controllers. MPI assumes that resource control is provided externally.

Process management functionality is included in MPI to enable its use in classes of message-passing applications requiring process control. These include task farms, serial applications with parallel modules, and problems that require a run-time assessment of the number and type of processes that should be started.

The following goals are central to the design of MPI process management:

The Dynamic Process Model addresses these issues in two ways. First, MPI remains primarily a communication library. It does not manage the parallel environment in which a parallel program executes, though it provides a minimal interface between an application and external resource and process managers.

Second, MPI maintains a consistent concept of a communicator, regardless of how its members came into existence. A communicator is never changed once created, and it is always created using deterministic collective operations.

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