Journal article

Modeling cost/performance of a parallel computer simulator

This article examines the cost/performance of simulating a hypothetical target parallel computer using a commercial host parallel computer. We address the question of whether parallel simulation is simply faster than sequential simulation, or if it is also more cost-effective. To answer this, we develop a performance model of the Wisconsin Wind Tunnel (WWT), a system that simulates cache-coherent shared-memory machines on a message-passing Thinking Machines CM-5. The performance model uses Kruskal and Weiss's fork-join model to account for the effect of event processing time variability on WWT's conservative fixed-window simulation algorithm. A generalization of Thiebaut and Stone's footprint model accurately predicts the effect of cache interference on the CM-5. The model is calibrated using parameters extracted from a fully parallel simulation (p = N), and validated by measuring the speedup as the number of processors (p) ranges from 1 to the number of target nodes (N). Together with simple cost models, the performance model indicates that for target system sizes of 32 nodes and larger, parallel simulation is more cost-effective than sequential simulation. The key intuition behind this result is that large simulations require large memories, which dominate the cost of a uniprocessor; parallel computers allow multiple processors to simultaneously access this large memory.

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