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One can with a bit of work even glue Linux and Windows machines together into a supercomputer.

Using the Parallel Virtual Machine for Everyday Analysis

PVM provides a consistent and intuitive interface to the user for the following essential components of running a parallel task: Identifying a set of resources compute nodes and configuring them to run a parallel task efficiently. Starting up a job to run in parallel on those nodes, handling all aspects of the execution of binaries on the actual nodes. Providing a message passing library to facilitate sending and receiving messages between the nodes.

All of these tasks can be handled without PVM as the "taskmaster" perl script demonstrates, but we have to do quite a bit of work using complex tools to get anywhere close to the same simplicity and performance. PVM is a poor man's "operating system" for the virtual machine and provides far more information, control, robustness and efficiency than one is likely to develop on one's own.

PVM works by starting up a daemon, pvmd, on all the nodes. The nodes can be selected interactively using the PVM console or the xpvm GUI interface, or a cluster can be specified by putting node names in a hostfile one per line and running pvm hostfile. Nodes can also be started up and controlled within a PVM application the only way to achieve truly robust operation. It is only this step starting the remote daemons that requires a remote shell, which is why I prefer to use ssh rather than rsh in spite of its larger overhead. The benefits associated with greater security outweigh the nearly irrelevant "one time" cost of a few extra seconds starting up PVM on the cluster, although on many isolated clusters "true Beowulfs" one can run rsh instead if you prefer.

Each pvmd is given a cluster-unique id called a "tid" when it is started up by the original pvmd or PVM process; this permits each node to be uniquely identified and targeted for communication or other purposes during the computation. Note that even if the program to be run has no particular "master" task, there is a "master" pvmd that keeps track of all the nodes belonging to this virtual supercomputer.

Nan's Parallel Computing Page

In this way there can be more than one virtual supercomputer running on different systems on the same LAN, belonging to the same or different users. PVM "locks" a computer to a particular virtual machine and user when it starts up which can lead to certain problems like leftover lockfiles when it crashes. Once the pvmd is running on all the nodes locking those nodes into a single virtual machine everything else PVM does in a typical parallel application can be summarized in one phrase: send and receive messages between tid-identified nodes.

It hides all details of just how the messages are sent and received from the user. It hides all architecture-related differences from the user e. In the above example hostfile we are adding the hosts onyx , prata. We are also specifying the working directory, wd , in which we want our application to run, and the execution path, ep , in which we want PVM to look for executables.

PVM | The MIT Press

We can however provide an option locally to over-ride this global option. The third method of configuring your virtual machine is to call the functions Pvm::addhosts or Pvm::delhosts within your application.

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You must still start your master pvmd daemon first. This can be achieved by starting pvm and typing quit or simply typing. The PVM application can then be started where we can add the hosts prata. PVM also provides a function, Pvm::conf , to query the configuration of the parallel virtual machine. An example code to check the current configuration is shown below.

COMP309/509 - Parallel and Distributed Computing

This can often be done by the call. Note however that calling any PVM function in a program will also enroll it into the system. A PVM application can spawn parallel tasks in your parallel virtual machine. Assuming there is exists an executable called client , we can spawn four client tasks in our virtual machine by calling. For each of the four spawned processes, the PVM system first allocates a host node and looks for the executable in the execuation path of that host.

If the executable is found it is started. The task which called the Pvm::spawn is known as the parent task. The tids array returns the task id, TID , of the spawned children tasks which will be useful later for communicating with them. Or you can spawn client on host nodes only of a particular architecture, say RS6K workstations, by calling. Note that tasks which have been spawned by using Pvm::spawn do not need to be explicitly enrolled into the pvm system.


  1. The In-Situ Approach to Sluicing;
  2. Pvm: A Users' Guide and Tutorial for Network Parallel Computing;
  3. Basic Algebraic Topology and its Applications?
  4. Ray Tracing from the Ground Up.
  5. PVM: Parallel virtual machine: A users' guide and tutorial for networked parallel computing?
  6. See a Problem?;

Messages can be sent to a task enrolled into PVM by specifying the example code sequence. In our example we first call Pvm::initsend to initialize the internal PVM send buffer.

Parallel Virtual Machine (PVM)

We then call Pvm::buffer to fill this buffer with a double 2. We also label the sending message to disambiguate it with other messages with a tag.


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  • This is done with the argument in Pvm::send function. For the destination task, we can receive the message sent by performing a blocking receive with the function Pvm::recv. A code sequence for the above example on the recipent end will be. Note that we must unpack the message in the reverse order in which we packed our message. In our example Pvm::recv will receive any message sent to it. In order to selectively receive a message, we could specify the TID of the source task and the message tag.

    For example,.

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