Parallel Prefix

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\[ % mathjax inclusion. \newcommand\inv{^{-1}}\newcommand\invt{^{-t}} \newcommand\bbP{\mathbb{P}} \newcommand\bbR{\mathbb{R}} \newcommand\defined{ \mathrel{\lower 5pt \hbox{${\equiv\atop\mathrm{\scriptstyle D}}$}}} \newcommand\macro[1]{$\langle$#1$\rangle$} \newcommand\dtdxx{\frac{\alpha\Delta t}{\Delta x^2}} \newcommand\toprule{\hline} \newcommand\midrule{\hline} \newcommand\bottomrule{\hline} \newcommand\nobreak{} \newcommand\multicolumn[3]{#3} \] 21.1 : Parallel prefix
21.2 : Sparse matrix vector product as parallel prefix
21.3 : Horner's rule
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21 Parallel Prefix

For operations to be executable in parallel they need to be independent. That makes recurrences problematic to evaluate in parallel. Recurrences occur in obvious places such as solving a triangular system of equations (section  5.3.5  ), but they can also appear in sorting and many other operations.

In this appendix we look at parallel prefix operations: the parallel execution of an operation that is defined by a recurrence involving an associative operator. (See also section  6.9.2 for the `recursive doubling' approach to parallelizing recurrences.) Computing the sum of an array of elements is an example of this type of operation (disregarding the non-associativity

for the moment). Let $\pi(x,y)$ be the binary sum operator:

\begin{equation} \pi(x,y)\equiv x+y, \end{equation}

then we define the prefix sum of $n\geq 2$ terms as

\begin{equation} \Pi(x_1,…,x_n) = \begin{cases} \pi(x_1,x_2)&\hbox{if $n=2$}\\ \pi\bigl( \Pi(x_1,…,x_{n-1}),x_n\bigr)&\hbox{otherwise} \\ \end{cases} \end{equation}

As a non-obvious example of a prefix operation, we could count the number of elements of an array that have a certain property.

Exercise Let $p(\cdot)$ be a predicate, $p(x)=1$ if it holds for $x$ and 0 otherwise. Define a binary operator $\pi(x,y)$ so that its reduction over an array of numbers yields the number of elements for which $p$ is true.
End of exercise

So let us now assume the existence of an associative operator $\oplus$, an array of values $x_1,\ldots,x_n$. Then we define the prefix problem as the computation of $X_1,\ldots,X_n$, where

\begin{equation} \begin{cases} X_1=x_1\\ X_k=\oplus_{i\leq k} x_i \end{cases} \end{equation}

21.1 Parallel prefix

crumb trail: > prefix > Parallel prefix

The key to parallelizing the prefix problem is the realization that we can compute partial reductions in parallel:

\begin{equation} x_1\oplus x_2, \quad x_3\oplus x_4, … \end{equation}

are all independent. Furthermore, partial reductions of these reductions,

\begin{equation} (x_1\oplus x_2) \oplus (x_3\oplus x_4),\quad … \end{equation}

are also independent. We use the notation

\begin{equation} X_{i,j}=x_i\oplus\cdots\oplus x_j \end{equation}

for these partial reductions.

You have seen this before in section  2.1 : an array of $n$ numbers can be reduced in $\lceil \log_2 n\rceil$ steps. What is missing in the summation algorithm to make this a full prefix operation is computation of all intermediate values.

Observing that, for instance, $X_3=(x_1\oplus x_2)\oplus x_3=X_2\oplus x_3$, you can now imagine the whole process; see figure  21.1 for the case of $8$ elements.

FIGURE 21.1: A prefix operation applied to 8 elements.

To compute, say, $X_{13}$, you express $13=8+4+1$ and compute $X_{13}=X_8\oplus X_{9,12} \oplus x_{13}$.

In this figure, operations over the same `distance' have been vertically aligned corresponding to a SIMD type execution. If the execution proceeds with a task graph, some steps can be executed earlier than the figure suggests; for instance $X_3$ can be computed simultaneously with $X_6$.

Regardless the arrangement of the computational steps, it is not hard to see that the whole prefix calculation can be done in $2\log_2n$ steps: $\log_2 n$ steps for computing the final reduction $X_n$, then another $\log_2 n$ steps for filling in the intermediate values.

21.2 Sparse matrix vector product as parallel prefix

crumb trail: > prefix > Sparse matrix vector product as parallel prefix

It has been observed that the sparse matrix vector product can be considered a prefix operation; see  [Blelloc:segmented-report]  . The reasoning here is we first compute all $y_{ij}\equiv a_{ij}x_j$, and subsequently compute the sums $y_i=\sum_j y_{ij}$ with a prefix operation.

A prefix sum as explained above does not compute the right result. The first couple of $y_{ij}$ terms do indeed sum to $y_1$, but then continuing the prefix sum gives $y_1+y_2$, instead of $y_2$. The trick to making this work is to consider two-component quantities $\langle y_{ij},s_{ij}\rangle$, where

\begin{equation} s_{ij} = \begin{cases} 1&\hbox{if $j$ is the first nonzero index in row $i$}\\ 0&\hbox{otherwise} \end{cases} \end{equation}

Now we can define prefix sums that are `reset' every time $s_{ij}=1$.

21.3 Horner's rule

crumb trail: > prefix > Horner's rule

Horner's rule for evaluating a polynomial is an example of a simple recurrence:

\begin{equation} y = c_0 x^n +\cdots+ c_n x^0 \equiv \begin{cases} t_0 \leftarrow c_0\\ t_i \leftarrow t_{i-1}\cdot x + c_i&i=1,…,n\\ y = t_n\\ \end{cases} \end{equation}

or, written more explicitly

\begin{equation} y = \left(\left( ( c_0\cdot x + c_1 ) \cdot x + c_2 \right) \cdots \right) . \end{equation}

Like many other recurrences, this seemingly sequential operation can be parallelized:

\begin{equation} \begin{array}{cccc} c_0 x + c_1 & c_2 x + c_3 & c_4 x + c_5 & c_6 x + c_7\\ %% \multicolumn{2}{c}{${\upbracefill}$} & %% \multicolumn{2}{@{}c@{}}{${\upbracefill}$} \\ \multicolumn{2}{c}{\cdot \times x^2 + \cdot}& \multicolumn{2}{c}{\cdot \times x^2 + \cdot}\\ %% \multicolumn{4}{c}{${\upbracefill}$} \\ \multicolumn{4}{c}{\cdot \times x^4 + \cdot}\\ \end{array} \end{equation}

However, we see here that some cleverness is needed: we need $x,x^2,x^4$ etc.\ to multiply subresults.

Interpreting Horner's rule as a prefix scheme fails: the `horner operator' $h_x(a,b)=ax+b$ is easily seen not to be associative. From the above treewise calculation we see that we need to carry and update the $x$, rather than attaching it to the operator.

A little experimenting shows that \newcommand\xyvec[2]{ \left[

\begin{array}{c} #1


\end{array} \right] }

\begin{equation} h\left( \xyvec ax,\xyvec by \right) \equiv \xyvec {ay+b}{xy} \end{equation}

serves our purposes:

\begin{equation} h\left( \xyvec ax,\xyvec by ,\xyvec cz \right) = \left\{ \begin{array}{lll} h\left( h\left( \xyvec ax,\xyvec by \right ),\xyvec cz \right) &=& h\left( \xyvec {ay+b}{xy},\xyvec cz \right) \\ h\left( \xyvec ax,h\left( \xyvec by ,\xyvec cz \right ) \right) &=& h\left( \xyvec ax,\xyvec { bz+c } {yz} \right) \end{array} \right\} = \xyvec{ayz + bz +c}{xyz} \end{equation}

With this we can realize Horner's rule as

\begin{equation} h\left( \xyvec {c_0}x,\xyvec {c_1}x,…,\xyvec {c_n}x \right) \end{equation}

As an aside, this particular form of the `horner operator' corresponds to the `rho' operator in the programming language  APL  , which is normally phrased as evaluation in a number system with varying radix.

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