# ParallelTable 70 times slower on 16 cores than Table on single core

Consider these code(sorry it's messy), why the ParallelTable version is 70 times slower than the Table version?

Quit[]
Clear["*"]
$Version (* ==> "8.0 for Linux x86 (64-bit) (February 23, 2011)" *) Kernels[] (* ==> {} *) a = RandomReal[{0., 1.}, {401, 300000}]; b = RandomReal[{0., 1.}, {401, 300000}]; DeveloperPackedArrayQ /@ {a, b} (* ==> {True, True} *) ht = 2*0.375*^-9; DFT[A_, ht_] := RotateRight[ ht/Sqrt[2 \[Pi]]* Fourier[RotateLeft[A, Length[A]/2 - 1], FourierParameters -> {1, 1}], Length[A]/2 - 1]; SmoothDFT[A_, ht_, n_] := DFT[Table[0., {(n - 1)*Length[A]/2}]~Join~A~Join~ Table[0., {(n - 1)*Length[A]/2}], ht]; SelectbyWRange[A_, {WMin_, WMax_}, {TakeWMin_, TakeWMax_}] := Module[{lthA, nMax, nMin}, lthA = Length[A]; nMin = Round[-((-WMax + lthA WMin)/( WMax - WMin)) - ((1 - lthA) TakeWMin)/(WMax - WMin)]; nMax = Round[-((-WMax + lthA WMin)/( WMax - WMin)) - ((1 - lthA) TakeWMax)/(WMax - WMin)]; Transpose[{Table[ TakeWMin + n *(TakeWMax - TakeWMin)/(nMax - nMin), {n, 0, nMax - nMin}], Take[A, {nMin, nMax}]}] ] Smtx1 = Table[SelectbyWRange[-Im[ SmoothDFT[a[[n]], ht, 2]* Conjugate[SmoothDFT[b[[n]], ht, 2]]], {-834., 834.}, {19.5, 20.5}], {n, 1, 2}]; // AbsoluteTiming (* ==> {0.404922, Null} *) Kernels[] (* ==> {} *) LaunchKernels[] (* ==> {KernelObject[1, "local"], KernelObject[2, "local"], KernelObject[3, "local"], KernelObject[4, "local"], KernelObject[5, "local"], KernelObject[6, "local"], KernelObject[7, "local"], KernelObject[8, "local"], KernelObject[9, "local"], KernelObject[10, "local"], KernelObject[11, "local"], KernelObject[12, "local"], KernelObject[13, "local"], KernelObject[14, "local"], KernelObject[15, "local"], KernelObject[16, "local"]} *) Smtx2 = ParallelTable[ SelectbyWRange[-Im[ SmoothDFT[a[[n]], ht, 2]* Conjugate[SmoothDFT[b[[n]], ht, 2]]], {-834., 834.}, {19.5, 20.5}], {n, 1, 2}]; // AbsoluteTiming (* ==> {25.459674, Null} *)  Note that I have 16 cores on the node and the table have only 2 elements, i.e. {n,1,2}, even if I change to {n,1,16}, the ParallelTable version is still 10 times slower than the Table version. If it is the overhead, why it has a such huge overhead? Thanks. These are the screenshots: Update 1.As OleksandrR point out that there is no DistributeDefinitions, but in the documentation of ParallelTable it promises to automatically distribute the calculations (version 9): ParallelTable is a parallel version of Table which automatically distributes different evaluations of expr among different kernels and processors. The default value is DistributedContexts:>$DistributedContexts with $DistributedContexts:=$Context, which distributes definitions of all symbols in the current context, but does not distribute definitions of symbols from packages.

2.OleksandrR also gave an excellent analysis in this post, pointing out that the performance problem is the MemberQ function.

Indeed if we turn on the unpack warning, we can see it unpacks the array in call to MemberQ

On["Packing"];
Smtx2 = AbsoluteTiming[ParallelTable[
SelectbyWRange[-Im[SmoothDFT[a[[n]], ht, 2]*
Conjugate[SmoothDFT[b[[n]], ht, 2]]], {-834., 834.}, {19.5, 20.5}], {n, 1, 2}];]


DeveloperFromPackedArray::unpack: Unpacking array in call to MemberQ. >>

(*{25.557433, Null}*)


However a second evaluation is much faster even the array still unpacks

ClearSystemCache[]
Smtx2 = AbsoluteTiming[ParallelTable[
SelectbyWRange[-Im[SmoothDFT[a[[n]], ht, 2]*
Conjugate[SmoothDFT[b[[n]], ht, 2]]], {-834., 834.}, {19.5, 20.5}], {n, 1, 2}];]


DeveloperFromPackedArray::unpack: Unpacking array in call to MemberQ. >>

(*{0.156995, Null}*)


If we use the temporary fix of MemberQ proposed by Szabolcs in the same post, then the unpack warning is gone, but the evaluation is still slow.

Quit[]
On["Packing"];

(*need to reevaluate all the definition code above*)

memberQ[list_, form_] := Or @@ (MatchQ[#, form] & /@ list)
ClearAll[fix]
SetAttributes[fix, HoldAll]
fix[expr_] := Block[{MemberQ = memberQ}, expr]

Smtx2 = fix@
AbsoluteTiming[ParallelTable[SelectbyWRange[-Im[
SmoothDFT[a[[n]], ht, 2]*
Conjugate[SmoothDFT[b[[n]], ht, 2]]], {-834., 834.}, {19.5,
20.5}], {n, 1, 2}];]
(*{25.192359,Null}*)


So how to fix this?

• I don't see any DistributeDefinitions here. Also, this. Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 3:17
• @OleksandrR. Sorry for the delay, but why do we need DistributeDefinitions? I thought ParallelTable will automatically distribute the calculation. Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 20:43
• @MichaelE2 That would slow down things even more as the main kernel would need to be accessed for every single calculation (every single element of the computed list). Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 20:06
• I tried on v8 now and I still can't reproduce. See my comment about memory usage though. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 20:09
• @Szabolcs Nevermind: I got a significant speed-up with SetSharedVariables when n goes up to only 2, as in the OP's question. If I make it go up to 16, it becomes slower. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 23:35

Short version:

I tested your code with a slight rewrite on v9, and I cannot reproduce the slowdown. I get a slight speedup, precisely as expected.

I tested your code with version 9 on a 4-core machine. Note that this CPU has hyper-threading so Mathematica is actually running 8 subkernels.

To try to isolate your specific code from the problem, I packaged it up into a "blackbox" function. Let's just define it and forget about what it does exactly for a moment.

blackbox[{a_, b_}] := SelectbyWRange[-Im[SmoothDFT[a, ht, 2]*Conjugate[SmoothDFT[b, ht, 2]]], {-834., 834.}, {19.5, 20.5}]


Notice that you only use the Table index n for indexing into an array, so the problem can be reformulated as a Map. This way ParallelMap will avoid transferring all of the input vectors to all subkernels. It'll only transfer those parts that need to be processed. This'll reduce the transfer time, and it'll reduce the memory usage. a and b together take 1.8 GB of memory. If you duplicate them 16 times, you'll need at least 17*1.8 = 31 GB of memory in your machine. This may actually be the cause of the slowdown you see.

Let's define

c = Transpose[{a, b}];


Then the calculation is simply

blackbox /@ c


Since I'm impatient, I only fed part of c to the function and used

blackbox /@ Take[c, 64];


for benchmarking. Note that to achieve a reasonable speedup, you should use an input vector which is longer than the number of cores you have, preferably much longer. In your example you use only 2 on a 16 core machine. This doesn't make much sense: it would give a 2x speedup at most.

Now let's do the benchmarking. On my four core machine I get:

Timing[blackbox /@ Take[c, 64];]  --> 28 s
AbsoluteTiming[blackbox /@ Take[c, 64];] --> 9.4 s
AbsoluteTiming[ParallelMap[blackbox, Take[c, 64]];] --> 6.9 s


Notice that Timing gives a 3 times longer time than AbsoluteTiming for the sequential Map. This is because it measures the time for each CPU core separately, then adds them up. Checking the task manager, I see that the sequential calculation uses 300% CPU, i.e. 3 cores are running at the same time. Something in blackbox must already be parallelized in the kernel directly (most likely Fourier).

Thus by further high level parallelization we can expect a speedup of about 30% that corresponds to going from a 300% CPU usage to a full 400% in this four-core machine. This is exactly what happens on my machine when I use ParallelMap: the timing went from 9.4 s to 6.9 s.

So, at least with version 9.0.1 and when using Map, I can't reproduce the slowdown. I get the expected speedup. But I did not test with v8.

Update: I have now tested with Mathematica 8.0.4. The results are the same as with 9. I cannot reproduce the problem.