Friday, 30 July 2010

Parallel Processing

As raw CPU speeds plateau, servers now achieve improved performance through multi-processor and multi-core architectures. This is ideal for servers that handle lots of separate processes like transaction processing or web requests, but what about large batch jobs? These tend to be designed as single threaded, so can only run as a single process for the application and a separate process for the database manager.

One of the recent enhancements we have been working on for the next release of GuardIEn is to reduce the overall elapsed time for large generation jobs on the client/server encyclopaedia by running multiple generates in parallel, thus taking advantage of multi-core servers. (We had already enabled parallel generates on the host encyclopaedia some years ago, which was implemented by submitting multiple jobs).

Because our tools are developed with CA Gen, we needed to work out the best way of implementing a parallel processing architecture.

There are several design alternatives to enable multi-thread processing for a CA Gen application. For this requirement, we decided to create child processes launched from the Gen action block and have the Gen AB wait for the child processes to complete. This enabled the design to launch a variable number of parallel generates (controlled by a parameter) and issue another generate when the previous one completed. The creation of the child processes is performed by a C external.

On our current test server that only has 2 processors, we have noticed a 30% reduction in elapsed time, and we are due to implement a new server with 2 4-core processors, which we hope will show even better reductions in elpased times for large generation tasks.