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SPEDE: A Simple Programming Environment for Distributed Execution (Users' Manual)
James Gochee
Dartmouth PCS-TR94-217


Traditional single processor computers are quickly reaching their full computational potentials. The quest for faster and faster chips have brought technology to the point where the laws of physics are hampering future gains. Significant gains in speed must therefore come from using multiple processors instead of a single processor. This technology usually represents itself in the form of a parallel computer, such as the Connection Machine Model 5. Recently however, much interest has been focused on software that organizes single processor computers to behave like a parallel computer. This is desirable for sites which have large installations of workstations, since the cost of new parallel systems are prohibitive. SPEDE, a Simple Programming Environment for Distributed Execution, was designed for this purpose. It allows UNIX based machines of varying hardware types to be organized and utilized by a programmer of parallel applications. SPEDE is a user level system in that it requires no special privileges to run. Every user keeps a separate copy of the system so that security issues are covered by the normal UNIX operating environment. SPEDE is characterized as a large grained distributed environment. This means that applications which have a large processing to I/O ratio will be much more effective than those with a small ratio.

SPEDE allows users to coordinate the use of many computers through a straightforward interface. Machines are organized by classes, which are terms that can be used to label and group them into more manageable units. For example, users might want to create a class based on the byte ordering of machines, or by their location. Users can then specify more completely which machines they want to use for a particular session. Sessions are essentially the interaction between objects in the SPEDE environment. A user creates an object to perform a certain task, such as constructing part of a fractal image. Objects can send and receive messages from other objects using a simple interface provided with SPEDE. Objects are machine independent, which means that the same object can be run simultaneously on different platforms. This is achieved by translating all messages into standard network byte ordering. However, if user data is being passed between objects, it is the user's responsibility to make sure byte ordering is correct.

The SPEDE system involves several major components. These components help control and manage object interactions. Figure 1 shows a running session running with three machines (each surrounded by an oval rectangle). There are also three objects running, two named MandComp and one named Mand. Each object is on a different machine, although it is possible to have multiple objects on a single machine. In the figure, the lines connecting the various entities represent socket connections. UNIX sockets are the transport mechanism used in SPEDE, although one could implement a lower level protocol for more efficient communication. Sockets can also be a problem because some machines have strict limits on the number of connections a user can have open at any given time.

Note: A Senior Thesis in the Department of Math and Computer Science, Dartmouth College, 1992.

See also Technical Report PCS-TR94-218 for a technical description of SPEDE, and http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~dfk/SPEDE.tar.z for a copy of the software.

PS.Z compressed postscript .ps.Z (44KB) , PDF PDF (68KB) (derived from the ps.Z)

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   James Gochee, "SPEDE: A Simple Programming Environment for Distributed Execution (Users' Manual)." Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report PCS-TR94-217, 1994.

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