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Slabpose Columnsort: A New Oblivious Algorithm for Out-of-Core Sorting on Distributed-Memory Clusters


Our goal is to develop a robust out-of-core sorting program for a distributed-memory cluster. The literature contains two dominant paradigms for out-of-core sorting algorithms: merging-based and partitioning-based. We explore a third paradigm, that of oblivious algorithms. Unlike the two dominant paradigms, oblivious algorithms do not depend on the input keys and therefore lead to predetermined I/O and communication patterns in an out-of-core setting. Predetermined I/O and communication patterns facilitate overlapping I/O, communication, and computation for efficient implementation. We have developed several out-of-core sorting programs using the paradigm of oblivious algorithms. Our baseline implementation, 3-pass columnsort, was based on Leighton's columnsort algorithm. Though efficient in terms of I/O and communication, 3-pass columnsort has a restriction on the maximum problem size. As our first effort toward relaxing this restriction, we developed two implementations: subblock columnsort and M-columnsort. Both of these implementations incur substantial performance costs: subblock columnsort performs additional disk I/O, and M-columnsort needs substantial amounts of extra communication and computation. In this paper we present slabpose columnsort, a new oblivious algorithm that we have designed explicitly for the out-of-core setting. Slabpose columnsort relaxes the problem-size restriction at no extra I/O or communication cost. Experimental evidence on a Beowulf cluster shows that unlike subblock columnsort and M-columnsort, slabpose columnsort runs almost as fast as 3-pass columnsort. To the best of our knowledge, our implementations are the first out-of-core multiprocessor sorting algorithms that make no assumptions about the keys and produce output that is perfectly load balanced and in the striped order assumed by the Parallel Disk Model.

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Correspondence to Geeta Chaudhry or Thomas H. Cormen.

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Chaudhry, G., Cormen, T. Slabpose Columnsort: A New Oblivious Algorithm for Out-of-Core Sorting on Distributed-Memory Clusters. Algorithmica 45, 483–508 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00453-006-1222-1

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  • Sorting
  • Problem Size
  • Sorting Algorithm
  • Parallel Disk
  • Height Restriction