[Beowulf] Mosix

Steve Brenneis sbrenneis at surry.net
Thu Jan 20 17:43:32 PST 2005

On Thu, 2005-01-20 at 11:18, Michael Will wrote:
> Steve, his original question was why we still bother with mpi and other 
> parallel programming
> headaches when instead we could just use Mosix that does things 
> transparently. My response
> intended to clarify that you still need parallell programming 
> techniques, and your point that
> you could then also use mosix to have them migrate around (and away from 
> the ressources
> in the worst case) transparently is true.
> My point is: There is no automated transparent parallelization of your 
> serial code.
> My apologies if my answer was not clear enough.
> Michael Will

Nothing personal, friend. Your point is well taken.

> Steve Brenneis wrote:
> >On Tue, 2005-01-18 at 15:29, Michael Will wrote:
> >  
> >
> >>On Tuesday 18 January 2005 11:31 am, Rajesh Bhairampally wrote:
> >>    
> >>
> >>>i am wondering when we have something like mosix (distributed OS available
> >>>at www.mosix.org ), why we should still develop parallel programs and
> >>>strugle with PVM/MPI etc. 
> >>>      
> >>>
> >>Because Mosix does not work?
> >>
> >>This of course is not really true, for some applications Mosix might be appropriate,
> >>but what it really does is transparently move processes around in a cluster, not
> >>have them become suddenly parallelized. 
> >>
> >>Let's have an example:
> >>
> >>Generally your application is solving a certain problem, like say taking an image and apply
> >>a certain filter to it. You can write a program for it that is not parallel-aware, and does not use
> >>MPI and just solves the problem of creating one filtered image from one original image.
> >>
> >>This serial program might take one hour to run (assuming really large image and really 
> >>complicated filter). 
> >>
> >>Mosix can help you now run this on a cluster with 4 nodes, which is cool if you have 4
> >>images and still want to wait 1 hour until you see the first result.
> >>
> >>Now if you want to really filter only one image, but in about 15 minutes, you can program your
> >>application differently so that it only works on a quarter of the image. Mosix could still help you
> >>run your code with different input data in your cluster, but then you have to collect the four pieces
> >>and stitch them together and would be unpleasently surprised because the borders of the filter
> >>will show - there was information missing because you did not have the full image available but just
> >>a quarter of it. Now when you adjust your code to exchange that border-information, you are actually
> >>already on the path to become an MPI programmer, and might as well just run it on a beowulf cluster.
> >>
> >>So the mpi aware solution to this would be a program that splits up the image into the four quadrants, 
> >>forks into four pieces that will be placed on four available nodes, communicates the border-data between
> >>the pieces and finally collects the result and writes it out as one final image, all in not much more than 
> >>the 15 minutes expected.
> >>
> >>Thats why you want to learn how to do real parallel programming instead of relying on some transparent
> >>mechanism to guess how to solve your problem.
> >>
> >>Michael
> >>
> >>
> >>    
> >>
> >
> >Ignoring the inflammatory opening of the above response, I'll just state
> >that its representation of what Mosix does and how it works is neither
> >fair nor accurate.
> >
> >Before message-passing mechanisms arrived, and before the concept of
> >multi-threading was introduced, the favored mechanism for
> >multi-processing and parallelism was the good old fork-join method. That
> >is, a parent process divided the task into small, manageable sub-tasks
> >and then forked child processes off to handle each subtask. When the
> >subtask was complete, the child notified the parent (usually by simply
> >exiting) and the parent joined the results of the sub-tasks into the
> >final task result. This mechanism works quite well on multi-tasking
> >operating systems with various scheduling models. It can be effective on
> >multi-CPU single systems or on clusters of single or multiple CPU
> >systems.
> >
> >Mosix (or at least Open Mosix) handles this kind of parallelism
> >brilliantly in that it will balance the forked child processes around
> >the cluster based on load factors. So your image processing, your
> >Gaussian signal analysis, your fluid dynamics simulations, your parallel
> >software compilations, or your Fibonacci number generations are
> >efficiently distributed while you still maintain programmatic control of
> >the sub-tasking.
> >
> >While the fork-join mechanism is not without a downside
> >(synchronization, for one, as mentioned above), it can be used with a
> >system like Mosix to provide parallelism without the overhead of the
> >message-passing paradigm. Maybe not better, probably not worse, just
> >different.
> >
> >The effect described above in which sub-tasks operate completely
> >independently to produce an erroneous result is really an artifact of
> >poor programming and design skills and cannot be blamed on the task
> >distribution system. Mosix is used regularly to do image processing and
> >other highly parallel tasks. Creating a system like this for Mosix
> >requires no knowledge of a message-passing interface or API, but simply
> >requires a working knowledge of standard multi-processing methods and
> >parallelism in general.
> >
> >One final note: most people consider a Mosix cluster to be a Beowulf as
> >long as it meets the requirements of using commodity hardware and
> >readily available software.
> >
> >Just keeping the record straight.
> >
> >  
> >
> >>>Tough i never used either mosix or PVM/MPI, I am 
> >>>genunely puzzled about it. Can someone kindly educate me?
> >>>
> >>>thanks,
> >>>rajesh
> >>>
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> >>>
> >>>      
> >>>
Steve Brenneis <sbrenneis at surry.net>

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