21-765. Introduction to Parallel Computing and
Scientific Computation

Florin Manolache
Wean Hall, Room 6218

The objectives of this course are:

General Considerations

The course is intended to be self-consistent, no prior computer skills being required. However, familiarity with the C programming language and Unix command line should give the student more time to concentrate on the core issues of the course, as hardware structure, operating system and networking insights, numerical methods.

The main idea of the course is to give the student a hands-on experience of writing a simple software package that eventually can be implemented on a parallel computer architecture. All the steps and components of the process (defining the problem, numerical algorithms, program design, coding, different levels of documentation) are treated at a basic level. Everything is done in the context of a structured vision of the computing environment.

The typical programming environment makes the computer hardware and operating system transparent to the user. In contrast, each program intended for efficient parallel execution must consider the custom physical and logical communication topology of the processors in a parallel system. The course should give a general image over the entire range of issues that a developer should consider when designing a parallel algorithm, from principles to details. The knowledge provided by the course should be enough to help the audience decide what's the most appropriate technique to approach a problem on a given computer architecture. However, the development of an efficient algorithm will require a lot of additional study, practice, and experimental work.

The examples, exercises, and projects were determined by the computers and software available for practice. The following were preferred: the C language, the x86_64 hardware platform, and the Linux operating system. However, the presentation will be kept at a very general level such that the student is prepared for any actual parallel computing environment.

The course contains three parts:

The first part makes the connection between real life and the computer world.
The second part provides the background needed to understand how the computer systems work.
The third part explores the parallel computing world.