Aggregate Function Networks: Architecture and Theory

Although we are best known for the PAPERS network hardware, believe it or not, we're compiler folk. In fact, since the early 1980s we have been doing fine-grain compiler code scheduling... which is how we came to be interested in hardware barrier synchronization and, more recently, how we created the concept of aggregate function communication.

Barrier synchronization is an N-way operation in which no processor is allowed to execute beyond the barrier until all N processors have arrived. It was in 1987 that we noticed that barriers are the key to most forms of static scheduling, including support of SIMD and VLIW execution modes.

We were not the first to recognize that, in hardware terms, barrier synchronization is essentially an AND gate. However, we went much further, creating the concept of arbitrary groups of processors specified by "barrier bit masks," and defining classes of barrier mechanisms based on how barriers affecting disjoint processor groups were handled. Most of this happened by 1990 ICPP (where our barrier papers created quite a stir), but it was late in 1993 that we finally discovered a method for efficiently building the most general type of barrier mechanism.

This new barrier mechanism requires a very special type of communication mechanism for collecting and transmitting barrier masks. When we built it, in February 1994, it didn't take long for us to realize that this communication was arguably even more significant than the fast barrier hardware it supported. Why? Because in a single operation, each processor could simultaneously sample data from all processors (originally, just one bit from each processor)... and this ability to sample global state does marvelous things.

Thus was born the aggregate function communication model, in which we allow each processor to specify the function it wants computed from the data posted by all N processors. Basic aggregate function communication operations range from multibroadcasts, reductions, and scans to systolic-style operations like counting the number of processors voting "true."

The software and hardware designs for Aggregate Function Networks have been placed in the public domain. Please see the following web pages:


Barrier/Aggregate Function Architecture

Aggregate Networks Using Network Memory (.ps)
R. Hoare and H. Dietz, "A Case for Aggregate Networks," Proceedings of the merged 12th International Parallel Processing Symposium and 9th Symposium on Parallel and Distributed Processing (IPPS/SPDP '98), pp. 162-166, Orlando, FL, March, 1998. This paper discusses some fancier types of aggregate functions that can be implemented using memory within the network.
Single-Chip Aggregate Function Clusters (.ps)
S. Kim, R. Hoare, and H. Dietz, "VLIW Across Multiple Superscalar Processors On A Single-Chip: A Smart Compiler and A Smart Machine," Proceedings of International Conference on Parallel Architectures and Compilation Techniques (PACT '97), pp. 166-175, San Francisco, CA, November, 1997.
Bitwise Aggregate Networks (.ps)
R. Hoare, H. Dietz, T. Mattox, and S. Kim, "Bitwise Aggregate Networks," Proceedings of The Eighth IEEE Symposium on Parallel and Distributed Processing (SPDP '96), New Orleans, LA, October 1996. This paper describes some of the marvelous things that can be done using only a simple bitwise logic function to implement all aggregate functions. It is very close to systolic architecture....
Modularly Scalable Static Barriers (.ps)
H. G. Dietz, R. Hoare, and T. Mattox, "A Fine-Grain Parallel Architecture Based On Barrier Synchronization," Proceedings of the International Conference on Parallel Processing, pp. 247-250, August 1996.
The New Dynamic Barrier Mechanism (.html, .ps)
W. E. Cohen, H. G. Dietz, and J. B. Sponaugle, Dynamic Barrier Architecture For Multi-Mode Fine-Grain Parallelism Using Conventional Processors; Part I: Barrier Architecture, Purdue University School of Electrical Engineering, Technical Report TR-EE 94-9, March 1994.
The First Barrier MIMD Paper (.html, .ps.Z)
Henry G. Dietz and Thomas Schwederski, Extending Static Synchronization Beyond SIMD and VLIW, Purdue University School of Electrical Engineering, Technical Report TR-EE 88-25, June 1988. (For a brief history of this paper, click here).

Theoretical Foundations
(How To Use Barriers/Aggregate Functions)

Timing Analysis and Code Scheduling (.html, .ps)
H. G. Dietz, M. T. O'Keefe, and A. Zaafrani, "An Introduction to Static Scheduling for MIMD Architectures," Proceedings of the Third Workshop on Programming Languages and Compilers for Parallel Computing, pp. 1-26, Irvine, California, August 1990. (A revised version appears in Advances in Languages and Compilers for Parallel Processing, edited by A. Nicolau, D. Gelernter, T. Gross, and D. Padua, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1991, pp. 425-444.)
MIMD/SIMD/VLIW Mode Emulation (.html, .ps)
W. E. Cohen, H. G. Dietz, and J. B. Sponaugle, Dynamic Barrier Architecture For Multi-Mode Fine-Grain Parallelism Using Conventional Processors; Part II: Mode Emulation, Purdue University School of Electrical Engineering, Technical Report TR-EE 94-10, March 1994.
SIMD/MIMD Mode-Independent Parallel Languages (.html)
Michael J. Phillip, Unification of Synchronous and Asynchronous Models for Parallel Programming Languages, MS Thesis, School of Electrical Engineering, Purdue University, May 1989.

The Aggregate. The only thing set in stone is our name.