The Refutation of Amdahl’s Law and Its Variants

  • F. DévaiEmail author
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10990)


Amdahl’s law, imposing a restriction on the speedup achievable by a multiple number of processors, based on the concept of sequential and parallelizable fractions of computations, has been used to justify, among others, asymmetric chip multiprocessor architectures and concerns of “dark silicon”. This paper demonstrates flaws in Amdahl’s law that (i) in theory no inherently sequential fractions of computations exist (ii) sequential fractions appearing in practice are different from parallelizable fractions and usually have different growth rates of time requirements and that (iii) the time requirement of sequential fractions can be proportional to the number of processors. However, mathematical analyses are also provided to demonstrate that sequential fractions have negligible effect on speedup if the growth rate of the time requirement of the parallelizable fraction is higher than that of the sequential fraction. Examples are given that Amdahl’s law and its variants fail to represent limits to parallel computation. In particular, Gustafson’s law, claimed to be a refutation of Amdahl’s law by some authors, is shown to contradict established theoretical results. We can conclude that no simple formula or law governing concurrency exists.


Amdahl’s law Gustafson’s law Sequential and parallelizable workload Growth rates Asymmetric chip multiprocessor architectures Graphics processing units Hidden-surface removal Inherently sequential computations P-complete problems Data-parallel computing 



The author thanks anonymous reviewers for their support and constructive criticism that helped to improve the presentation of the paper. One of the reviewers drew the author’s attention to the fact that experimental results complement the author’s demonstration that parallelizable fractions of computational loads may grow with the problem size. The author also appreciate comments by Shekhar Y. Borkar, John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.London South Bank UniversityLondonUK
  2. 2.Hungarian Academy of SciencesBudapestHungary

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