Benefits of parallel computing on networks of PCs

Today companies are faced with a number of difficult challenges handle of which require a huge amount of computing power. The companies have exciting usages of high performance computing in the following markets:

  • Manufacturing: crash-test analysis, stress analysis, shock and vibration, and aerodynamics;
  • Petroleum: seismic processing, geophysical modeling, and reservoir modeling;
  • Life Sciences: drug design, bioinformatics, DNA mapping, and disease research;
  • Digital Media/Content: render farms and virtualization;
  • Finance: portfolio management and risk analysis;
  • Electronic Design Automation: simulation and complex auto routes.

Usually dedicated parallel systems are used for solving these problems. But since most of these companies have large office networks that are idle most of the time, it would be natural to use these networks for parallel computing. The networks of Windows-based PCs can be a cost-effective alternative to the dedicated parallel systems but only if they are used with proper tools that make clusters from them. Until now, there were no integrated environments for developing parallel application for Windows platform. The mpC Workshop is the first one. It provides facilities for both developing parallel applications and running them on networks of PCs. And all this can be done as simple as in any conventional integrated environments for developing sequential applications.

To demonstrate benefits of an office network as a platform for parallel computing we used computationally and communicationally intensive parallel application, which solves partial differential equations using a hierarchy of nested grids for 3D modeling of supernova explosion. The application was executed on network of personal computers in dedicated and non-dedicated modes. In dedicated mode, computers of the network ran the parallel application only. The network was comprised of 12 computers of different performances running WindowsTM 2000 interconnected via Fast Ethernet switch. The total relative performance of the network is seven times as large as the relative performance of the fastest computer in the network. The speedups achieved on this network were 5.2 and 4 in dedicated and non-dedicated modes respectively. The test showed that the use of an ordinary office network for solving computationally intensive problems is advantageous even in work hours.