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Message Passing Interface

The Message Passing Interface (MPI) is a library specification for message-passing. It is a standard API (Application Programming Interface) that can be used to create parallel applications. The MPI standardization effort makes use of the most attractive features of a number of existing message passing systems, rather than selecting one of them and adopting it as the standard.

MPI is a language-independent communications protocol used to program parallel computers. Both point-to-point and collective communication are supported. MPI “is a message-passing application programmer interface, together with protocol and semantic specifications for how its features must behave in any implementation.” MPI’s goals are high performance, scalability, and portability. MPI remains the dominant model used in high-performance computing today.

MPI is not sanctioned by any major standards body; nevertheless, it has become a de facto standard for communication among processes that model a parallel program running on a distributed memory system. Actual distributed memory supercomputers such as computer clusters often run such programs. The principal MPI-1 model has no shared memory concept, and MPI-2 has only a limited distributed shared memory concept. Nonetheless, MPI programs are regularly run on shared memory computers. Designing programs around the MPI model (contrary to explicit shared memory models) has advantages over NUMA architectures since MPI encourages memory locality.

Although MPI belongs in layers 5 and higher of the OSI Reference Model, implementations may cover most layers, with sockets and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) used in the transport layer.

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