Moving towards Python 3.0 (was Re: [Python-Dev] Speed up function calls)

Donovan Baarda abo at
Tue Feb 1 00:30:05 CET 2005

On Mon, 2005-01-31 at 15:16 -0500, Nathan Binkert wrote:
> > Wouldn't it be nicer to have a facility that let you send messages
> > between processes and manage concurrency properly instead?  You'll need
> > most of this anyway to do multithreading sanely, and the benefit to the
> > multiple process model is that you can scale to multiple machines, not
> > just processors.  For brokering data between processes on the same
> > machine, you can use mapped memory if you can't afford to copy it
> > around, which gives you basically all the benefits of threads with
> > fewer pitfalls.
> I don't think this is an answered problem.  There are plenty of
> researchers on both sides of this fence.  It is not been proven at all
> that threads are a bad model.
> or even

These are both threads vs events discussions (ie, threads vs an
async-event handler loop). This has nearly nothing to do with multiple
CPU utilisation. The real discussion for multiple CPU utilisation is
threads vs processes.

Once again, my knowledge of this is old and possibly out of date, but
threads do not scale well on multiple CPU's because threads use shared
memory between each thread. Multiple CPU hardware _can_ have physically
shared memory, but it is hardware hell keeping CPU caches in sync etc.
It is much easier to build a multi-CPU machine with separate memory for
each CPU, and high speed communication channels between each CPU. I
suspect most modern multi-CPU's use this architecture. 

Assuming they have the separate-memory architecture, you get much better
CPU utilisation if you design your program as separate processes
communicating together, not threads sharing memory. In fact, it wouldn't
surprise me if most Operating Systems that support threads don't support
distributing threads over multiple CPU's at all.

A quick google search revealed this;

Keeping in mind the high overheads of sharing memory between CPU's, the
discussion about threads at this url seems to confirm; threads with
shared memory are hard to distribute over multiple CPU's. Different OS's
and/or thread implementations have tried (or just outright rejected)
different ways of doing it, to varying degrees of success. IMHO, the
fact that QNX doesn't distribute threads speaks volumes.

Donovan Baarda <abo at>

More information about the Python-Dev mailing list