Input/Output in Parallel and Distributed Computer Systems

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Our research group performs research of computing problems whose computational or memory complexity requires deployment of many processors or stand-alone computers. We focus on the modern parallel and distributed computing systems consisting of thousands of computing nodes. We are interested both in data structures and algorithms in selected application domains and in research of system architectures of large-scale high-performance computing systems, such as computational grids, computer clusters, and massively parallel machines.

Scalable Computing: Practice and Experience, , 15 1 , ISSN ISBN Published on-line. Computational Optimization and Applications, , 43 3 , Search this site Search this site:. The drawback is that more simpler instructions are required to perform a task, but this is more than made up for in the performance boost to the processor. The realization of this led to a rethink of processor design.

The result was the RISC architecture, which has led to the development of very high-performance processors. The basic philosophy behind RISC is to move the complexity from the silicon to the language compiler. The hardware is kept as simple and fast as possible.

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A given complex instruction can be performed by a sequence of much simpler instructions. For example, many processors have an xor exclusive OR instruction for bit manipulation, and they also have a clear instruction to set a given register to zero. However, a register can also be set to zero by xor -ing it with itself.

Thus, the separate clear instruction is no longer required. It can be replaced with the already present xor. Further, many processors are able to clear a memory location directly by writing a zero to it. That same function can be implemented by clearing a register and then storing that register to the memory location. The instruction to load a register with a literal number can be replaced with the instruction for clearing a register, followed by an add instruction with the literal number as its operand. Thus, six instructions xor , clear reg , clear memory , load literal , store , and add can be replaced with just three xor , store , and add.

The resulting code size is bigger, but the reduced complexity of the instruction decode unit can result in faster overall operation. Dozens of such code optimizations exist to give RISC its simplicity. RISC processors have a number of distinguishing characteristics. They have large register sets in some architectures numbering over 1, , thereby reducing the number of times the processor must access main memory.

Often-used variables can be left inside the processor, reducing the number of accesses to slow external memory. Compilers of high-level languages such as C take advantage of this to optimize processor performance. By having smaller and simpler instruction decode units, RISC processors have fast instruction execution, and this also reduces the size and power consumption of the processing unit.

Generally, RISC instructions will take only one or two cycles to execute this depends greatly on the particular processor.

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This is in contrast to instructions for a CISC processor, whose instructions may take many tens of cycles to execute. For example, one instruction integer multiplication on an CISC processor takes 42 cycles to complete. The same instruction on a RISC processor may take just one cycle. Instructions on a RISC processor have a simple format.

All instructions are generally the same length which makes instruction decode units simpler. This means that the only instructions that actually reference memory are load and store. In contrast, many most instructions on a CISC processor may access or manipulate memory. On a RISC processor, all other instructions aside from load and store work on the registers only.

This facilitates the ability of RISC processors to complete most of their instructions in a single cycle. RISC processors also often have pipelined instruction execution. This means that while one instruction is being executed, the next instruction in the sequence is being decoded, while the third one is being fetched. At any given moment, several instructions will be in the pipeline and in the process of being executed.

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Again, this provides improved processor performance. Thus, even though not all instructions may be completed in a single cycle, the processor may issue and retire instructions on each cycle, thereby achieving effective single-cycle execution. Some RISC processors have overlapped instruction execution, in which load operations may allow the execution of subsequent, unrelated instructions to continue before the data requested by the load has been returned from memory. This allows these instructions to overlap the load , thereby improving processor performance. Due to their low power consumption and computing power, RISC processors are becoming widely used, particularly in embedded computer systems, and many RISC attributes are appearing in what are traditionally CISC architectures such as with the Intel Pentium.

If power consumption needs to be low, then RISC is probably the better architecture to use. These processors have instruction sets and architectures optimized for numerical processing of array data. They often extend the Harvard architecture concept further by not only having separate data and code spaces, but also by splitting the data spaces into two or more banks. This allows concurrent instruction fetch and data accesses for multiple operands.

DSPs have special hardware well suited to numerical processing of arrays. They often have hardware looping , whereby special registers allow for and control the repeated execution of an instruction sequence. This is also often known as zero-overhead looping , since no conditions need to be explicitly tested by the software as part of the looping process.

DSPs often have dedicated hardware for increasing the speed of arithmetic operations. DSP processors are commonly used in embedded applications, and many conventional embedded microcontrollers include some DSP functionality. Memory is used to hold data and software for the processor. There is a variety of memory types, and often a mix is used within a single system. Some memory will retain its contents while there is no power, yet will be slow to access.

Other memory devices will be high-capacity, yet will require additional support circuitry and will be slower to access. Still other memory devices will trade capacity for speed, yielding relatively small devices, yet will be capable of keeping up with the fastest of processors. Memory chips can be organized in two ways, either in word-organized or bit-organized schemes.

In the word-organized scheme, complete nybbles, bytes, or words are stored within a single component, whereas with bit-organized memory, each bit of a byte or word is allocated to a separate component Figure Memory chips come in different sizes, with the width specified as part of the size description. In both cases, each chip has exactly the same storage capacity, but organized in different ways.

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However, because the DRAMs are organized in parallel, they are accessed simultaneously. It is common practice for multiple DRAMs to be placed on a memory module. This is the common way that DRAMs are installed in standard computers. The common widths for memory chips are x1, x4, and x8, although x16 devices are available.

A bit-wide bus can be implemented with thirty-two x1 devices, eight x4 devices, or four x8 devices. It is where the processor may easily write data for temporary storage. RAM is generally volatile , losing its contents when the system loses power. Any information stored in RAM that must be retained must be written to some form of permanent storage before the system powers down. There are special nonvolatile RAMs that integrate a battery-backup system, such that the RAM remains powered even when the rest of the computer system has shut down.

SRAMs use pairs of logic gates to hold each bit of data. SRAMs are the fastest form of RAM available, require little external support circuitry, and have relatively low power consumption. Their drawbacks are that their capacity is considerably less than DRAM, while being much more expensive.

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Their relatively low capacity requires more chips to be used to implement the same amount of memory. A modern PC built using nothing but SRAM would be a considerably bigger machine and would cost a small fortune to produce. It would be very fast, however. DRAM uses arrays of what are essentially capacitors to hold individual bits of data. The capacitor arrays will hold their charge only for a short period before it begins to diminish. Therefore, DRAMs need continuous refreshing, every few milliseconds or so.

This perpetual need for refreshing requires additional support and can delay processor access to the memory. If a processor access conflicts with the need to refresh the array, the refresh cycle must take precedence. DRAMs are the highest-capacity memory devices available and come in a wide and diverse variety of subspecies. Interfacing DRAMs to small microcontrollers is generally not possible, and certainly not practical.

Most processors with large address spaces include support for DRAMs. These caches are often, but not always internal to the processors and are implemented with fast memory cells and high-speed data paths. Instruction execution normally runs out of the instruction cache, providing for fast execution. The processor is capable of rapidly reloading the caches from main memory should a cache miss occur.

Some processors have logic that is able to anticipate a cache miss and begin the cache reload prior to the cache miss occurring.


This is also a bit of a misnomer, since many modern ROMs can also be written to. ROMs are nonvolatile memory , requiring no power to retain their contents. The primary purpose of ROM within a system is to hold the code and sometimes data that needs to be present at power-up. It may contain either a bootloader program to load an operating system off disk or network or, in the case of an embedded system, it may contain the application itself.

Many microcontrollers contain on-chip ROM, thereby reducing component count and simplifying system design. Standard ROM is fabricated in a simplistic sense from a large array of diodes. A device known as a ROM burner can accomplish this, or, if the system supports it, the ROM may be programmed in-circuit. Computer manufacturers typically use them in systems where the firmware is stable and the product is shipping in bulk to customers.

Mask-programmable ROMs are also one-time programmable, but unlike OTPs, they are burned by the chip manufacturer prior to shipping.

Like OTPs, they are used once the software is known to be stable and have the advantage of lowering production costs for large shipments. OTP ROMs are great for shipping in final products, but they are wasteful for debugging, since with each iteration of code change, a new chip must be burned and the old one thrown away.