Parallelization on muli-CPU hardware?

Nicolas Lehuen nicolas.lehuen at
Tue Oct 12 16:59:17 CEST 2004

"Alex Martelli" <aleaxit at> a écrit dans le message de news:1gljufr.9d1d5319us58iN%aleaxit at
> Nicolas Lehuen <nicolas.lehuen at> wrote:
> > "Alex Martelli" <aleaxit at> a écrit dans le message de
> news:1gljja1.1nxj82c1a25c1bN%aleaxit at
> > > Nicolas Lehuen <nicolas at> wrote:
> > > 
> > > > problem was the same ; people expected mod_python to run in a
> > > > multi-process context, not a multi-threaded context (I guess this is
> > > > due to a Linux-centered mindset, forgetting about BSD, MacosX or Win32
> > > > OSes). When I asked questions and pointed problem, the answer was 'Duh
> > > > - use Linux with the forking MPM, not Windows with the threading MPM'.
> > > 
> > > Sorry, I don't get your point.  Sure, Windows makes process creation
> > > hideously expensive and has no forking.  But all kinds of BSD, including
> > > MacOSX, are just great at forking.  Why is a preference for multiple
> > > processes over threads "forgetting about BSD, MacOSX", or any other
> > > flavour of Unix for that matter?
> > 
> > Because when you have multithreaded programs, you can easily share objects
> between different threads, provided you carefully implement them. On the
> web framework I wrote, this means sharing and reusing the same DB
> connection pool, template cache, other caches and so on. This means a
> reduced memory footprint and increased performance. In a multi-process
> environment, you have to instantiate as many connections, caches,
> templates etc. that you have processes. This is a waste of time and
> memory.
> I'm not particularly interested in debating the pros and cons of threads
> vs processes, right now, but in getting a clarification of your original
> assertion which I _still_ don't get.  It's still quoted up there, so
> please DO clarify: how would "a Linux-centered mindset forgetting about
> BSD" (and MacOSX is a BSD in all that matters in this context, I'd say)
> bias one against multi-threading or towards multi-processing?  In what
> ways are you claiming that Unix-like systems with BSD legacy are
> inferior in multi-processing, or superior in multi-threading, to ones
> with Linux kernels?  I think I understand both families decently well
> and yet I _still_ don't understand whence this claim is coming.  (Forget
> the red herring of Win32 -- nobody's disputing that _their_ process
> spawning is a horror of inefficiency -- let's focus about Unixen, since
> you did see fit to mention them so explicitly contrasted, hm?!).

Wow, I don't want to launch any OS flame war there. My point is just that I have noticed that the vast majority of people running mod_python are running it on Apache 2 on Linux with the forking MPM. Hence, multi-threading problems that you DO encounter if you use the threading MPM are often dismissed because, hey, everybody uses the forking MPM in which a single thread handles all the requests it is given by the parent process. Now, when I discussed about this problem on the mod_python mailing list, I had some echo from people who would like to use the multithreading MPM under MacOS X (which is a BSD indeed). Just to say that people running Apache 2 on Win32 are not the only ones interested.

To sum up : people running mod_python under Linux don't have any multithreading issues. They represent 95% of mod_python's market (pure guess). So the multithreading issues have not many chances of being fixed soon. That is why I said that a "Linux-centered mindset forgetting [other OSes, none in particular]" is hindering the bugfix process.
> _Then_, once that point is cleared, we may (e.g.) debate how the newest
> Linux VM development (presumably coming in 2.6.9) may make mmap quite as
> fast as sharing memory among threads (which, I gather from hearsay only,
> is essentially the case today already... but _only_ for machines with no
> more than 2GB, 3GB tops of physical memory being so shared -- the claim
> is that the newest developments will let you have upwards of 256 GB of
> physical memory shares with similar efficiency, by doing away with the
> current pagetables overhead of mmap), and what (if anything) is there in
> BSD-ish kernels to match that accomplishments.  But until you clarify
> that (to me) strange and confusing assertion, to help me understand what
> point you were making there (and nothing in this "answer" of yours is at
> all addressing my doubts and my very specific question about it!), I see
> little point in trying to delve into such exoterica.

I do hope the point above is cleared.

Now, you propose to share objects between Python VMs using shared memory. Why not, if it is correctly implemented (I've seen it done in Gemstone for Java, IIRC), I'd be as happy with this as I am when sharing objects between threads. The trouble is that you'll have exactly the same problems, if not more. You'll have to implement the same locking primitives. You'll have to make sure that all the stdlib and extensions are ready to support objects that are shared this way. All the trouble we have now with multiple threads, you'll have with multiple processes. And you may have so big portability issues. I don't see any benefit vs the work already done, even if tiny, on the multithreading support.

> > BTW [shameless plug] here is the cookbook recipe I wrote about thread-safe
> caching.
> > 
> >
> I do not see any relevance of that recipe (with which I'm quite
> familiar, since I'm preparing the 2nd Edition of the Cookbook) to your
> assertion with Linux on one side, and BSD derivatives grouped with
> Windows on the other, quoted, questioned and never clarified above.

Well, that was a shameless plug... But this recipe allows you to build, for example, module caches that can safely be shared between threads, with minimum locking. I encountered a bug in mod_python on the subject, which I fixed using it, so I though it might be illustrative.

> > > Again, I don't get it.  Why would multicore CPUs be any worse than
> > > current multi-CPU machines at multiple processes, and forking?
> > 
> > Obviously they won't be any worse. Well, to be precise, it still depends
> on the OS, because the scheduler must know the difference between 2
> processors and a 2-core processor to efficiently balance the work, but
> anyway.
> As far as I know there is no special support in current kernels for
> multi-core CPUs as differentiated from multiple CPUs sharing external
> buses... (nor even yet, unless I'm mistaken, for such fundamental
> novelties as HyperTransport, aka DirectConnect, which _has_ been around
> for quite a while now -- and points to a completely different paradigm
> than shared memory as being potentially much-faster IPC... bandwidths of
> over 10 gigabytes/second, which poor overworked memory subsystems might
> well have some trouble reaching... how one would exploit hypertransport
> within multiple threads of a process, programmed on the basis of sharing
> memory, I dunno -- using it between separate processes which exchange
> messages appears conceptually simpler).  Anyway, again to the limited
> amount of my current knowledge, this holds just as much for multiple
> threads as for multiple processes, no?

I am way beyond my competences here, but I've read some articles about hyperthreading-aware schedulers (in WinXP, Win2003, and patches for Linux). The idea is that on multi-core CPUs, threads from the same process should be ran on the same core for maximum cache efficiency, whereas different processes can freely run on different cores. I've read that you can effectively have worse performances on multicore CPUs if the kernel scheduler does not know about HT. I cannot find the articles again but there are a bunch referenced on Google :

But apart from this caveat, yes, multi-threads and multi-processes application equally benefit from multi-core CPUs.
> > What I meant is that right now I'm writing this on a desktop PC with
> hyperthreading. This means that even on a desktop PC you can benefit
> from having multithreaded (or multi-processed) applications.
> I'm writing this on my laptop (uniprocessor, no quirks), because I'm on
> a trip, but at home I do have a dual-processor desktop (actually a
> minitower, but many powerful 'desktops' are that way), and it's a
> year-old model (and Apple was making dual processors for years before
> the one I own, though with 32-bit 'G4' chips rather than 64-bit 'G5'
> ones they're using now).  So this is hardly news: I can run make on a
> substantial software system much faster with a -j switch to let it spawn
> multiple jobs (processes).
> > With multicore or multiprocessor machines being more and more current, the
> pressure to have proper threading support in Python will grow and grow.
> The pressure has been growing for a while and I concur it will keep
> growing, particularly since the OS by far most widespread on desktops
> has such horrible features for multiple-process spawning and control.
> But, again, before we go on to debate this, I would really appreciate it
> if you clarified your previous assertions, to help me understand why you
> believe that BSD derivatives, including Mac OS X, are to be grouped on
> the same side as Windows, while only Linux would favour processes over
> threads -- when, to _me_, it seems so obvious that the reasonable
> grouping is with all Unix-like systems on one side, Win on the other.
> You either know something I don't, about the internals of these systems,
> and it appears so obvious to you that you're not even explaining it now
> that I have so specifically requested you to explain; or there is
> something else going on that I really do not understand.

I hope it has been cleared : it's just that some people using MacOS X seemed as interested as me in having a decent multi-threading support in mod_python. If more people used a multi-threading MPM on Linux, their reaction would be the same. I'm really not religious about OSes, no offence meant.

Best regards,


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