What Users Need in Parallel Tool Support : Survey Results and Analysis 0

Abstract

Considerable effort and expense have been devoted to developing tools that support parallel programming. Recent evidence suggests that users do not find the current generation of tools useful for their program development needs, but offers no guidance on how that problem might be addressed. This paper reports the results of a survey applied to a significant (N=448) cross-section of the parallel user community at Supercomputing '93. The responses establish a number of general patterns in program development and tool use among scientists, engineers, and computer scientists. Our analysis suggests several likely directions for future tool development efforts. As Thomas Moran noted more than ten years ago, software developers often adopt the attitude that "... the best way to deal with the user is simply to take more care in considering the user -all the system designer needs is to be given the time to do so. The designer is, after all, human and has the intuitions to predict what will be easy for the user. It is mostly common sense, anyway, isn't it?" [6:2] This attitude is prevalent in the parallel computing industry. Existing parallel tools and runtime support environments were designed by computer scientists and systems engineers who concentrated their efforts on meeting the serious technological challenges presented by parallel systems. In response to user complaints, they are now taking the tools and libraries they found useful in their own development work and "re-packaging" them for the user audience by adding graphical or quasi-graphical interfaces. The result? Users simply do not find the current generation of tools useful for their program development needs [9, 11]. The final session of a recent NSF/ARPA workshop1 which brought together tool developers and users clarified the problem: A lot of smart people are developing parallel tools that smart users just won't use. Significant levels of effort and expense are being devoted to the development of tools to support parallel programming. Why, then, are the results so disappointing? We believe that there is a significant mis-match between user needs and tool support. This paper addresses the issue of parallel tool requirements. It describes a survey applied to a significant cross-section of the parallel user community. The results provide a basic framework indicating how users approach parallel programming, where they direct most of their efforts, and what tools or other 0 The survey described here is part of a broader research project dealing with the parallel user community, sponsored by Intel Corporation, IBM Corporation, CONVEX Computer Corporation, and the Oregon Advanced Computing Institute. This report will be included in the Proceedings of the Scalable High Performance Computing Conference (May, 1994). 1 1993 Workshop on Parallel Computing Systems: A Dialog between Users and Developers (Keystone, Colorado, April 1993).

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@inproceedings{Pancake1994WhatUN, title={What Users Need in Parallel Tool Support : Survey Results and Analysis 0}, author={Cherri M. Pancake and Curtis R. Cook}, year={1994} }