Introduction to Parallel Processing

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Shahram Latifi


Behrooz Parhmi
Plenum Press, New York, 1999, 532 pp.
ISBN 0-306-45970-1, $88.00

The book is organized in a very structured way making it suitable for use in a senior-level undergraduate or an introductory-level graduate course in computer science/engineering. While being successful in covering the main topics of parallel processing, the author has managed to arrive at an evenly divided book with fairly self-contained sections. As shown in page (xi), the book is comprised of six parts with each part containing four chapters. In the book, theoretical models of parallel processing are described and accompanied by techniques for exact analysis of parallel machines. The focus of the book is mainly on hardware issues, and software aspects such as parallel compilers/operating systems and concurrent programming are addressed in less detail.

From the start, the author motivates the problem by explaining the continuing need for parallel processing regardless of advances in technology. Chapter 1 dwells on basic concepts of parallel processing. Fundamental computations including semigroup and parallel prefix computations are covered in Chapter 2. The reader here is introduced to simple parallel architectures such as linear array, binary tree, and 2D mesh. Most common communication primitives such as one to one routing, broadcasting, and sorting are described in conjunction with the said three architectures. In Chapter 3, asymptotic complexity along with complexity classes (NP-complete, NP, P, NC, etc.) is covered in detail. The author has done a good job in clarifying facts and fallacies of parallel processing. Chapter 4 concludes the first part of the book by intruding Flynn's classification of parallel machines, the PRAM model, and global versus distributed memory.

Part II starts out with the PRAM as an extreme model for parallel computation. It then describes, in more detail than earlier chapters, the basic parallel algorithms. Algorithms aimed at systems with shared memory are discussed in Chapter 6. Synthesis and analysis of sorting networks are presented in Chapter 7, which is followed by more coverage of architectures designed for such parallel algorithms as DFT and FFT.

Part III is devoted to mesh-based networks with associated algorithms. These networks are important due to their simplicity and low communication delay; they form the backbone of many parallel machines. I think, therefore, devotion of the whole part to mesh topologies is appropriate and well justified.

Part IV covers the popular networks proposed over the past decades to serve as the underlying topology of parallel machines. These networks generally have low diameter and node degree and offer the familiar trade-off between speed and cost.

Part V presents broad topics such as data flow, load balancing, and scheduling as well as system issues. Emulation (embedding) among parallel architectures is also discussed in a general way, with specific problems given at the end of the chapter.

Finally Part VI adds much value to the text by addressing the implementation issues and introducing the contemporary parallel machines of different types.

The book also contains useful and informative examples, illustrations, and problems. The end-of-chapter exercises are rigorous and relate directly to the subject just covered. References are recent and are taken from highly visible conferences/journals and books in the discipline.

Finally, it should be pointed out that writing a book on computer architecture in general and parallel processing in particular is a challenge considering recent advances in technology. The author should be congratulated for composing a book, which appears to survive for years to come as it addresses, along with contemporary algorithms and architectures, concepts and innovations with little or no dependence on the current technology.

Shahram Latifi
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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