Parallelism in Sequential Functional Languages

Guy Blelloch and John Greiner.
Proceedings of the Symposium on Functional Programming and Computer Architecture, pages 226-237. June 1995.

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Abstract: This paper formally studies the question of how much parallelism is available in call-by-value functional languages with no parallel extensions (i.e., the functional subsets of ML or Scheme). In particular we are interested in placing bounds on how much parallelism is available for various problems. To do this we introduce a complexity model, the PAL, based on the call-by-value lambda-calculus. The model is defined in terms of a profiling semantics and measures complexity in terms of the total work and the parallel depth of a computation. We describe a simulation of the A-PAL (the PAL extended with arithmetic operations) on various parallel machine models, including the butterfly, hypercube, and PRAM models and prove simulation bounds. In particular the simulations are work-efficient (the processor-time product on the machines is within a constant factor of the work on the A-PAL), and for P processors the slowdown (time on the machines divided by depth on the A-PAL) is proportional to at most O(log P). We also prove bounds for simulating the PRAM on the A-PAL.

Based on the model, we describe and analyze tree-based versions of quicksort and mergesort. We show that for an input of size n these algorithms run on the A-PAL model with O(n log n) work and O(log^2 n) depth (expected case for quicksort).

	title = "Parallelism in Sequential Functional Languages",
	author = "Guy E. Blelloch and John Greiner",
	booktitle = "Proceedings of the Symposium on
                     Functional Programming and Computer Architecture",
	month = jun,
	pages = "226--237",
	year = 1995}