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Network-Based Multicomputers: A Practical Supercomputer Architecture
August 1996 (vol. 7 no. 8)
pp. 861-875

Abstract—Multicomputers built around a general network are an attractive architecture for a wide class of applications. The architecture provides many benefits compared with special-purpose approaches, including heterogeneity, reuse of application and system code, and sharing of resources. The architecture also poses new challenges to both computer system implementors and users. First, traditional local-area networks do not have enough bandwidth and create a communication bottleneck, thus seriously limiting the set of applications that can be run effectively. Second, programmers have to deal with large bodies of code distributed over a variety of architectures, and work in an environment where both the network and nodes are shared with other users. Our experience in the Nectar project shows that it is possible to overcome these problems. We show how networks based on high-speed crossbar switches and efficient protocol implementations can support high bandwidth and low latency communication while still enjoying the flexibility of general networks, and we use three applications to demonstrate that network-based multicomputers are a practical architecture. We also show how the network traffic generated by this new class of applications poses severe requirements for networks.

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Index Terms:
Multicomputer, workstation cluster, high-speed network, host-network interface, distributed programming, traffic characteristics.
Citation:
Peter Steenkiste, "Network-Based Multicomputers: A Practical Supercomputer Architecture," IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, vol. 7, no. 8, pp. 861-875, Aug. 1996, doi:10.1109/71.532117
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