Introduction to MPI


MPI_COMM_WORLD, size and ranks

Before starting any coding, we need a bit of context. When a program is ran with MPI all the processes are grouped in what we call a communicator. You can see a communicator as a box grouping processes together, allowing them to communicate. Every communication is linked to a communicator, allowing the communication to reach different processes. Communications can be either of two types :

  • Point-to-Point : Two processes in the same communicator are going to communicate.
  • Collective : All the processes in a communicator are going to communicate together.

The default communicator is called MPI_COMM_WORLD. It basically groups all the processes when the program started. If you take a look at the example below, you see a depiction of a program ran with five processes. Every process is connected and can communicate inside this communicator.


MPI_COMM_WORLD is not the only communicator in MPI. We will see in a future chapter how to create custom communicators, but for the moment, let's stick with MPI_COMM_WORLD. In the following lessons, every time communicators will be mentionned, just replace that in your head by MPI_COMM_WORLD.

The number in a communicator does not change once it is created. That number is called the size of the communicator. At the same time, each process inside a communicator has a unique number to identify it. This number is called the rank of the process. In the previous example, the size of MPI_COMM_WORLD is 5. The rank of each process is the number inside each circle. The rank of a process always ranges from $0$ to $size-1$.

Now that we have stated this very basic information about communicators, let's try and make our first program, a very simple Hello World.

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