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High Performance Linux Clusters with OSCAR, Rocks, OpenMosix, and MPI by Joseph D Sloan

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Chapter 16. Debugging Parallel Programs

If you are using a cluster, you are probably dealing with large, relatively complicated problems. As problem complexity grows, the likelihood of errors grows as well. In these circumstances, debugging becomes an increasingly important skill. It is a simple fact of life—if you write code, you are going to have to debug it.

In this chapter, we’ll begin by looking at why debugging parallel programs can be challenging. Next, we’ll review debugging in general. Finally, we’ll look at how the traditional serial debugging approaches can be extended to parallel problems. Parallel debugging is an active research area, so there is a lot to learn. We’ll stick to the basics here.

Debugging and Parallel Programs

Parallel code presents new difficulties, and the task of coordinating processes can result in some novel errors not seen in serial code. While elaborate classification schemes for parallel problems exist, there are two broad categories of errors in parallel code that you are likely to come up against. These are synchronization problems that stem from inherent nondeterminism found in parallel code and deadlock. While we can further subclassify problems, you shouldn’t be too concerned about finer distinctions. If you can determine the source of error and how to correct it, you can leave the classification to the more academically inclined.

Synchronization problems result from variations in the order that instructions may be executed when spread among ...

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