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Recent developments in communication architectures for parallel machines have reduced the communication overheads and latencies by over an order of magnitude. This paper examines whether these techniques can carry over to clusters of workstations connected by an ATM network even though clusters use standard operating system software, are equipped with network interfaces optimized for stream communication, do not allow direct protected user-level access to the network, and use networks without reliable transmission or flow control. In a first part, this paper describes the differences in communication characteristics between clusters of workstations built from standard hardware and software components and state-of-the-art multiprocessors. A second part evaluates a prototype implementation of the low-latency Active Messages communication model on a Sun workstation cluster interconnected by an ATM network. Measurements show application-level round-trip latencies of about 50 microseconds for small messages which is roughly comparable to the Active Messages implementation on the Thinking Machines CM-5 multiprocessor.
Parallel Computing, network of workstations, message passing, communication layer, communication performance.

V. Buch, A. Basu and T. von Eicken, "Low-Latency Communication Over ATM Networks Using Active Messages," in IEEE Micro, vol. 15, no. , pp. 46-53, 1995.
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