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In computing, MISD (multiple instruction, single data) is a type of parallel computing architecture where many functional units perform different operations on the same data. Pipeline architectures belong to this type, though a purist might say that the data is different after processing by each stage in the pipeline. Fault tolerance executing the same instructions redundantly in order to detect and mask errors, in a manner known as task replication, may be considered to belong to this type. Applications for this architecture are much less common than MIMD and SIMD, as the latter two are often more appropriate for common data parallel techniques. Specifically, they allow better scaling and use of computational resources. However, one prominent example of MISD in computing are the Space Shuttle flight control computers [1] .

Computing Activity that uses computers

Computing is any activity that uses computers to manage, process, and communicate information. It includes development of both hardware and software. Computing is a critical, integral component of modern industrial technology. Major computing disciplines include computer engineering, software engineering, computer science, information systems, and information technology.

Parallel computing programming paradigm in which many calculations or the execution of processes are carried out simultaneously

Parallel computing is a type of computation in which many calculations or the execution of processes are carried out simultaneously. Large problems can often be divided into smaller ones, which can then be solved at the same time. There are several different forms of parallel computing: bit-level, instruction-level, data, and task parallelism. Parallelism has long been employed in high-performance computing, but it's gaining broader interest due to the physical constraints preventing frequency scaling. As power consumption by computers has become a concern in recent years, parallel computing has become the dominant paradigm in computer architecture, mainly in the form of multi-core processors.

Computer architecture Set of rules and methods that describe the functionality, organization, and implementation of computer systems

In computer engineering, computer architecture is a set of rules and methods that describe the functionality, organization, and implementation of computer systems. Some definitions of architecture define it as describing the capabilities and programming model of a computer but not a particular implementation. In other definitions computer architecture involves instruction set architecture design, microarchitecture design, logic design, and implementation.

Systolic arrays

Systolic arrays (< wavefront processors), first described by H. T. Kung and Charles E. Leiserson are an example of MISD architecture. In a typical systolic array, parallel input data flows through a network of hard-wired processor nodes, resembling the human brain which combine, process, merge or sort the input data into a derived result.

In parallel computer architectures, a systolic array is a homogeneous network of tightly coupled data processing units (DPUs) called cells or nodes. Each node or DPU independently computes a partial result as a function of the data received from its upstream neighbors, stores the result within itself and passes it downstream. Systolic arrays were invented by H. T. Kung and Charles Leiserson who described arrays for many dense linear algebra computations for banded matrices. Early applications include computing greatest common divisors of integers and polynomials. They are sometimes classified as multiple-instruction single-data (MISD) architectures under Flynn's taxonomy, but this classification is questionable because a strong argument can be made to distinguish systolic arrays from any of Flynn's four categories: SISD, SIMD, MISD, MIMD, as discussed later in this article.

Hsiang-Tsung Kung is a Taiwanese-born American computer scientist. He is the William H. Gates professor of computer science at Harvard University. His early research in parallel computing produced the systolic array in 1979, which has since become a core computational component of hardware accelerators for artificial intelligence, including Google's Tensor Processing Unit (TPU). Similarly, he proposed optimistic concurrency control in 1981, now a key principle in memory and database transaction systems, including MySQL, Apache CouchDB, Google's App Engine, and Ruby on Rails. He remains an active researcher, with ongoing contributions to computational complexity theory, hardware design, parallel computing, routing, wireless communication, signal processing, and artificial intelligence.

Charles E. Leiserson American computer scientist

Charles Eric Leiserson is a computer scientist, specializing in the theory of parallel computing and distributed computing, and particularly practical applications thereof. As part of this effort, he developed the Cilk multithreaded language. He invented the fat-tree interconnection network, a hardware-universal interconnection network used in many supercomputers, including the Connection Machine CM5, for which he was network architect. He helped pioneer the development of VLSI theory, including the retiming method of digital optimization with James B. Saxe and systolic arrays with H. T. Kung. He conceived of the notion of cache-oblivious algorithms, which are algorithms that have no tuning parameters for cache size or cache-line length, but nevertheless use cache near-optimally. He developed the Cilk language for multithreaded programming, which uses a provably good work-stealing algorithm for scheduling. Leiserson coauthored the standard algorithms textbook Introduction to Algorithms together with Thomas H. Cormen, Ronald L. Rivest, and Clifford Stein.

Systolic arrays are often hard-wired for a specific operation, such as "multiply and accumulate", to perform massively parallel integration, convolution, correlation, matrix multiplication or data sorting tasks. A Systolic array typically consists of a large monolithic network of primitive computing nodes which can be hardwired or software configured for a specific application. The nodes are usually fixed and identical, while the interconnect is programmable. More general wavefront processors, by contrast, employ sophisticated and individually programmable nodes which may or may not be monolithic, depending on the array size and design parameters. Because the wave-like propagation of data through a systolic array resembles the pulse of the human circulatory system, the name systolic was coined from medical terminology.

Convolution mathematical operation

In mathematics convolution is a mathematical operation on two functions that produces a third function expressing how the shape of one is modified by the other. The term convolution refers to both the result function and to the process of computing it. It is defined as the integral of the product of the two functions after one is reversed and shifted.

In mathematics, matrix multiplication or matrix product is a binary operation that produces a matrix from two matrices with entries in a field, or, more generally, in a ring or even a semiring. The matrix product is designed for representing the composition of linear maps that are represented by matrices. Matrix multiplication is thus a basic tool of linear algebra, and as such has numerous applications in many areas of mathematics, as well as in applied mathematics, statistics, physics, economics, and engineering. In more detail, if A is an n × m matrix and B is an m × p matrix, their matrix product AB is an n × p matrix, in which the m entries across a row of A are multiplied with the m entries down a column of B and summed to produce an entry of AB. When two linear maps are represented by matrices, then the matrix product represents the composition of the two maps.

Node (computer science) basic unit of a graph data structure such as a tree or linked list

A node is a basic unit of a data structure, such as a linked list or tree data structure. Nodes contain data and also may link to other nodes. Links between nodes are often implemented by pointers.

A major benefit of systolic arrays is that all operand data and partial results are contained within (passing through) the processor array. There is no need to access external buses, main memory or internal caches during each operation as is the case with standard sequential machines. The sequential limits on parallel performance dictated by Amdahl's theorem also do not apply in the same way, because data dependencies are implicitly handled by the programmable node interconnect.

Amdahl can be;

Systolic arrays are therefore extremely good at artificial intelligence, image processing, pattern recognition, computer vision and other tasks which animal brains do so particularly well. Wavefront processors in general can also be very good at machine learning by implementing self configuring neural nets in hardware.

While systolic arrays are officially classified as MISD, their classification is somewhat problematic. Because the input is typically a vector of independent values, the systolic array is definitely not SISD. Since these input values are merged and combined into the result(s) and do not maintain their independence as they would in a SIMD vector processing unit, the array cannot be classified as such. Consequently, the array cannot be classified as a MIMD either, since MIMD can be viewed as a mere collection of smaller SISD and SIMD machines.

SISD class of computer architecture in Flynns taxonomy

In computing, SISD is a computer architecture in which a single uni-core processor, executes a single instruction stream, to operate on data stored in a single memory. This corresponds to the von Neumann architecture.

In computer science, the general meaning of input is to provide or give something to the computer, in other words, when a computer or device is receiving a command or signal from outer sources, the event is referred to as input to the device.

Independence condition of a nation, country, or state which exercises self-government, and usually sovereignty, over the territory

Independence is a condition of a person, nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over the territory. The opposite of independence is the status of a dependent territory.

Finally, because the data swarm is transformed as it passes through the array from node to node, the multiple nodes are not operating on the same data, which makes the MISD classification a misnomer. The other reason why a systolic array should not qualify as a MISD is the same as the one which disqualifies it from the SISD category: The input data is typically a vector not a single data value, although one could argue that any given input vector is a single dataset.

A misnomer is a name that is incorrectly applied to a person, place or object. Misnomers often arise because something was named long before its correct nature was known, or because an earlier form of something has been replaced by something to which the name no longer applies. A misnomer may also be simply a word that someone uses incorrectly or misleadingly. The word "misnomer" does not mean "misunderstanding" or "popular misconception", and a number of misnomers remain in common usage — which is to say that a word being a misnomer does not necessarily make usage of the word incorrect.

All of the above not withstanding, systolic arrays are often offered as a classic example of MISD architecture in textbooks on parallel computing and in the engineering class. If the array is viewed from the outside as atomic it should perhaps be classified as SFMuDMeR = Single Function, Multiple Data, Merged Result(s). [2] [3] [4] [5]


  1. Spector, A.; Gifford, D. (September 1984). "The space shuttle primary computer system". Communications of the ACM. 27 (9): 872–900. doi:10.1145/358234.358246.
  2. Michael J. Flynn, Kevin W. Rudd. Parallel Architectures. CRC Press, 1996.
  3. Quinn, Michael J. Parallel Programming in C with MPI and OpenMP. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2004.
  4. Ibaroudene, Djaffer. "Parallel Processing, EG6370G: Chapter 1, Motivation and History." St Mary's University, San Antonio, TX. Spring 2008.
  5. Null, Linda; Lobur, Julia (2006). The Essentials of Computer Organization and Architecture . 468: Jones and Bartlett.

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Superscalar processor CPU that implements instruction-level parallelism within a single processor

A superscalar processor is a CPU that implements a form of parallelism called instruction-level parallelism within a single processor. In contrast to a scalar processor that can execute at most one single instruction per clock cycle, a superscalar processor can execute more than one instruction during a clock cycle by simultaneously dispatching multiple instructions to different execution units on the processor. It therefore allows for more throughput than would otherwise be possible at a given clock rate. Each execution unit is not a separate processor, but an execution resource within a single CPU such as an arithmetic logic unit.

SIMD class of parallel computers in Flynns taxonomy, with multiple processing elements that perform the same operation on multiple data points simultaneously

Single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) is a class of parallel computers in Flynn's taxonomy. It describes computers with multiple processing elements that perform the same operation on multiple data points simultaneously. Such machines exploit data level parallelism, but not concurrency: there are simultaneous (parallel) computations, but only a single process (instruction) at a given moment. SIMD is particularly applicable to common tasks such as adjusting the contrast in a digital image or adjusting the volume of digital audio. Most modern CPU designs include SIMD instructions to improve the performance of multimedia use. SIMD is not to be confused with SIMT, which utilizes threads.

Connection Machine

A Connection Machine (CM) is a member of a series of massively parallel supercomputers that grew out of doctoral research on alternatives to the traditional von Neumann architecture of computers by Danny Hillis at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the early 1980s. Starting with CM-1, the machines were intended originally for applications in artificial intelligence (AI) and symbolic processing, but later versions found greater success in the field of computational science.

MIMD class of parallel computer architecture in Flynns taxonomy, in which multiple operations are performed on multiple data points simultaneously

In computing, MIMD is a technique employed to achieve parallelism. Machines using MIMD have a number of processors that function asynchronously and independently. At any time, different processors may be executing different instructions on different pieces of data. MIMD architectures may be used in a number of application areas such as computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing, simulation, modeling, and as communication switches. MIMD machines can be of either shared memory or distributed memory categories. These classifications are based on how MIMD processors access memory. Shared memory machines may be of the bus-based, extended, or hierarchical type. Distributed memory machines may have hypercube or mesh interconnection schemes.

Flynn's taxonomy is a classification of computer architectures, proposed by Michael J. Flynn in 1966. The classification system has stuck, and has been used as a tool in design of modern processors and their functionalities. Since the rise of multiprocessing central processing units (CPUs), a multiprogramming context has evolved as an extension of the classification system.

In computer science, a parallel random-access machine (PRAM) is a shared-memory abstract machine. As its name indicates, the PRAM was intended as the parallel-computing analogy to the random-access machine (RAM). In the same way that the RAM is used by sequential-algorithm designers to model algorithmic performance, the PRAM is used by parallel-algorithm designers to model parallel algorithmic performance. Similar to the way in which the RAM model neglects practical issues, such as access time to cache memory versus main memory, the PRAM model neglects such issues as synchronization and communication, but provides any (problem-size-dependent) number of processors. Algorithm cost, for instance, is estimated using two parameters O(time) and O(time × processor_number).

In computing, SPMD is a technique employed to achieve parallelism; it is a subcategory of MIMD. Tasks are split up and run simultaneously on multiple processors with different input in order to obtain results faster. SPMD is the most common style of parallel programming. It is also a prerequisite for research concepts such as active messages and distributed shared memory.

Dataflow architecture is a computer architecture that directly contrasts the traditional von Neumann architecture or control flow architecture. Dataflow architectures do not have a program counter : the executability and execution of instructions is solely determined based on the availability of input arguments to the instructions, so that the order of instruction execution is unpredictable, i.e. behavior is nondeterministic.

In computing, hardware acceleration is the use of computer hardware specially made to perform some functions more efficiently than is possible in software running on a general-purpose CPU. Any transformation of data or routine that can be computed, can be calculated purely in software running on a generic CPU, purely in custom-made hardware, or in some mix of both. An operation can be computed faster in application-specific hardware designed or programmed to compute the operation than specified in software and performed on a general-purpose computer processor. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. The implementation of computing tasks in hardware to decrease latency and increase throughput is known as hardware acceleration.

In computing, a parallel programming model is an abstraction of parallel computer architecture, with which it is convenient to express algorithms and their composition in programs. The value of a programming model can be judged on its generality: how well a range of different problems can be expressed for a variety of different architectures, and its performance: how efficiently the compiled programs can execute. The implementation of a parallel programming model can take the form of a library invoked from a sequential language, as an extension to an existing language, or as an entirely new language.

Automatic parallelization, also auto parallelization, autoparallelization, or parallelization, the last one of which implies automation when used in context, refers to converting sequential code into multi-threaded or vectorized code in order to utilize multiple processors simultaneously in a shared-memory multiprocessor (SMP) machine. The goal of automatic parallelization is to relieve programmers from the hectic and error-prone manual parallelization process. Though the quality of automatic parallelization has improved in the past several decades, fully automatic parallelization of sequential programs by compilers remains a grand challenge due to its need for complex program analysis and the unknown factors during compilation.

Stream processing is a computer programming paradigm, equivalent to dataflow programming, event stream processing, and reactive programming, that allows some applications to more easily exploit a limited form of parallel processing. Such applications can use multiple computational units, such as the floating point unit on a graphics processing unit or field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), without explicitly managing allocation, synchronization, or communication among those units.

Scalar processors represent a class of computer processors. A scalar processor processes only one data item at a time, with typical data items being integers or floating point numbers. A scalar processor is classified as a SISD processor in Flynn's taxonomy.

Data parallelism

Data parallelism is parallelization across multiple processors in parallel computing environments. It focuses on distributing the data across different nodes, which operate on the data in parallel. It can be applied on regular data structures like arrays and matrices by working on each element in parallel. It contrasts to task parallelism as another form of parallelism.

In computing, algorithmic skeletons, or parallelism patterns, are a high-level parallel programming model for parallel and distributed computing.

Duncan's taxonomy is a classification of computer architectures, proposed by Ralph Duncan in 1990. Duncan proposed modifications to Flynn's taxonomy to include pipelined vector processes.

In computing, massively parallel is the use of a large number of processors to perform a set of coordinated computations in parallel (simultaneously).

SUPRENUM was a German research project to develop a parallel computer from 1985 through 1990. It was a major effort which was aimed at developing a national expertise in massively parallel processing both at hardware and at software level.