Operating Systems and Programming Environments for Parallel Computers


SUPERNODE II - 2528

Keywords transputers, parallel architectures, programming environments, numerical libraries, operating systems, SQL, PCTE


Start Date: 20-MAR-89 / Duration: 48 months

[ contact / participants ]


Objectives and Approach

SUPERNODE II aimed to provide the software infrastructure necessary to exploit the general class of Distributed Memory Parallel Computer (DMPC) machines. This software was to be initially targeted at the transputer-based Supernode machine (ie the major output from project 1085). An overriding design aim was to provide software portable to other DMPC platforms.

Software components were to be thoroughly integrated through clearly defined interfaces using existing standards (eg X/Open, PCTE) where appropriate. Specific tools, languages and libraries required for the effective usage of parallel architectures were to be designed and implemented. A small work package was included to upgrade the original Supernode to use the Inmos T9000 transputer.

Progress and Results

The major output of SUPERNODE II is the lightweight operating system, PAROS. This has been designed specifically for DMPC platforms. This gives PAROS a major performance advantage over other operating systems which have merely been ported from single processor or distributed processing platforms to tightly coupled DMPC architectures. PAROS is best described as an operating system micro kernel for distributed memory parallel computers. Higher level services and application programming interfaces are implemented as subsystems on top of the kernel. Services and interfaces already implemented include X/Open volumes 1, 2 and 7; PCTE; X Windows client library; BSD Sockets; ISO network protocols; I/O and file system. Support tools include those for configuration, load-balancing and measurement/display of application performance.

The first implementation of PAROS was produced for T800 transputer-based Supernodes. An evaluation version is also available for a number of commonly available T800 boards. Unfortunately, the Inmos T9000 arrived too late for a port of PAROS to be completed within the project. A large effort was devoted to the integrated implementation of a PCTE IPSE, the Eclipse environment and a parallel implementation of an SQL interface. A range of applications were implemented to demonstrate the efficacy of the SUPERNODE II parallel programming environment. These included CAD and simulation tools, road traffic simulation, graphics for lighting design and an oil reservoir simulation package.

In the area of numerical libraries, the drive was towards providing a user-friendly exploitation of parallelism by way of sequential calls to parallel library routines. The parallel library now contains over 100 high-level parallel routines as well as a vast number of single processor and support functions.

Work on the high quality compilers required for parallel machines was forced to start late. However, much of the ground lost has been recovered and two Fortran compilers - Fortran 77 and Fortran 90 - each with message-passing extensions, a parallel Ada compilation system and a variety of aids to programming in other languages have all been delivered.

Planned hardware upgrades had to be abandoned when Inmos failed to deliver the T900 and support chips. Circuit design was completed and this work will continue in other projects (notably GPMIMD).

Exploitation

Although the complete PAROS system is not currently commercially available, many elements of PAROS are being used in commercial products. Most notably, a cut down version of PAROS, called RUBIS, is available from TELMAT Informatique as a highly efficient run-time kernel for their new range of T9000-based computers. PAROS continues to be used as a basis for parallel operating system research at UPC and IMAG. An evaluation version has been released into the public domain to stimulate further work by other parties. This is available free of charge from a number of ftp and mail archive sites.

A performance monitoring and analysis system for transputers (and soon, other processors), the VPB Toolset, is available from THORN EMI CRL. The transputer implementation of OSI layers 3 and 4 forms the basis for a new range of high speed networking products from Aptor SA. The work on PCTE and the HOOD Toolset is being exploited by SYSECA and IPSYS software, albeit not on transputer systems but on high performance workstations.

The numerical library routines are on sale under the name of the NAG/Liverpool Transputer Library. This is expected to form the basis for a future High Performance Fortran parallel library. The Fortran90 compiler is on sale from NA Software.

The applications are continuing to be used and improved within the organisations who developed them. The lighting visualisation system has also been in use for almost two years by both a major firm of architects and a major lighting company.

SUPERNODE II has already made a significant contribution to the European parallel software research effort. Commercial products are now appearing which will provide financial reward for the investment that has been made in the project.


CONTACT POINT

Mr Chris Sharpington
THORN EMI CRL
Dawley Road
UK - Hayes UB3 1HH
tel: + 44/81 848 6468
fax: + 44/ 81 848 6565
email: csharpington@thorn-emi-crl.co.uk

Participants

THORN EMI CLR - UK - C
GRUPO APD SA - E - P
APTOR SA - F - P
PARSIM CONSORTIUM - DK - P
IMAG - UNIVERSITE DE GRENOBLE - F - P
NUMERICAL ALGORITHMS GROUP LTD - UK - P
SYSECA - F - P
TELMAT INFORMATIQUE SA - F - P
DRA - UK - P
UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL - UK - A
OVE ARUP & PARTNERS PLC - UK - A
UNIVERSIDAD POLITECNICA DE
CATALUYA - E - A
IPSYS SOFTWARE PLC - UK - A
INMOS LTD - UK - A
PARSYS LTD - UK - A
NA SOFTWARE - UK - A


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SUPERNODE II - 2528, December 1993


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html version of synopsis by Nick Cook