(j3.2006) ASYNCHRONOUS and non-blocking communication

Aleksandar Donev donev1
Wed Jun 18 16:09:34 EDT 2008

I have not yet gotten feedback on this from the MPI folks but will be 
travelling for three weeks so here it goes to J3 for any comments.

To:                                       J3
From: Aleksandar Donev
Subject: User-specified ASYNCHRONOUS I/O
Date: 6/13/2008

Several important libraries have routines for asynchronous data transfer, for 
example, MPI's non-blocking communication routines. The use of these routines 
is essentially identical to asynchronous I/O within Fortran 2003, however, 
the ASYNCHRONOUS attribute only applies to the standard-specified 
asynchronous I/O. The VOLATILE attribute may be used to signal to the 
compiler that a variable may be modified asynchronously by an external 
mechanism, however, this disables all optimizations involving the variable, 
which is not needed. In particular, in good programs the variable will not be 
referenced or defined while asynchronous data transfer is possibly occuring 
(this is an explicit restriction in the MPI standard), just as required in 
F2003 for variables involved in async I/O. 

It is therefore useful to extend the semantics of the ASYNCHRONOUS attribute 
to also apply to user-defined I/O. This was difficult to do in Fortran 2003 
because the issues of memory consistency were hard to specify. However, the 
same kind of asynchronous data transfer and memory consistency issues occur 
with co-arrays, and we now have the segment model and SYNC MEMORY to lean on. 
I therefore consider this issue to be integration and appropriate for 
immediate incorporation into Fortran 2008, especially given the long-existing 
demand for it from the MPI community.

I propose that the following modification be made to the F2008 standard:
We should explicitly allow a variable with the ASYNCHRONOUS attribute to be 
modified or examined by means external to the processor, similarly to 
VOLATILE variables. If such a variable is modified or examined externally 
during a segment, that variable must not be referenced or define during that 
segment. Details are in the edits below.

This simple modification solves an existing problem with MPI non-blocking 
transfer, namely, the need to prevent movement of code across calls to 
MPI_Wait. The programmer can use SYNC MEMORY to indicate to the compiler that 
ASYNCHRONOUS variables may be affected and therefore old copies in registers 
should be discarded and new values written to memory. This is exactly as for 
coarrays and TARGETs (which may be modified by other images) and also just 
like SYNC MEMORY needs to be put around external synchronization routines 
such as MPI_Barrier (see Note 8.39).

Also note that the ASYNCHRONOUS attribute solves another vexing problem with 
MPI non-blocking transfer, namely, that of copy in/out. The existing rules we 
have now specify that if both the dummy and the actual have the ASYNCHRONOUS 
attribute, no copy in/out can occur because either the dummy has to be 
assumed-shape or the actual has to be simply-contiguous. It would be nice if 
we could say that explicitly in the standard (not proposed here because I do 
not know how to word it).

Note that the use of SYNC MEMORY will lead to lots of code segments like this:

CALL MPI_Wait(request,...) ! Complete communication


CALL MPI_Barrier(comm) ! If used to synchronize images

I think it would be a benefit to programmers to give them syntactic sugar to 
do this without requiring rewriting existing codes or writing wrappers. It 
could be achieved through a SYNC procedure attribute, which cannot be 
combined with PURE and is not a procedure characteristic. A call to a 
procedure with the SYNC attribute implies a SYNC MEMORY both before and after 
the call. I do not provide edits for this but I hope it can be voted on.


Example 1:

REAL, ASYNCHRONOUS :: buffer(100)

SYNC MEMORY ! This is not really necessary in practice, it should be added
err=MPI_IRecv(buffer,...,request,...) ! The dummy buffer has the ASYNC 
... ! Code not involving buffer but buffer may be modified outside
WRITE(*,*) buffer

Example 2:

REAL..., ASYNCHRONOUS :: buffer1, buffer2, ...

CALL PrepareNonBlocking(buffer1, buffer2, ...) ! Build internal pointers etc.
        ! This may take some time to initialize, but is done only once
        ! No copy in/out will happen if buffers are simply-contiguous
        ! and the interface has ASYNCHRONOUS on the dummies
CALL BeginNonBlocking() ! Start async transfer
.... ! Cannot reference buffers within this segment
.... ! This may span across many procedure calls or even scoping units
CALL WaitNonBlocking()
WRITE(*,*) buffer1



[88:p1] Clause 5.3.4 on the ASYNCHRONOUS attribute:
Add to the end of the first sentence:
", or a variable that may be referenced, defined, or become undefined, by 
means not specified by the program."

{Note that I specifically do not want to allow pointer or association status 
to be changed asynchronously, as we do for VOLATILE.}
[88:p2] Clause 5.3.4. Rewrite para 2:
The base object of a variable shall have the ASYNCHRONOUS attribute in a 
scoping unit if the variable appears in an executable statement or 
specification expression in that scoping unit and any statement of the 
scoping unit is executed while 
-the variable is a pending I/O storage sequence affector (, or
-the variable is referenced, defined, or become undefined, by means not 
specified by the program and the base object does not have the VOLATILE 
attribute in that scoping unit
{Note: The second item may be stronger than we want since it requires either 
VOLATILE or ASYNCHRONOUS to be specified. Does this disallow existing 
threaded programs?}

{Note: These rules are meant to be analogues of the rules in 9.6.4 for Fortran 
async I/O.}
[88:p3+] Add a new paragraph after para 3:
If a variable has the ASYNCHRONOUS attribute but does not have the VOLATILE 
attribute, then:
-If it is referenced by means not specified by the program during the 
execution of a segment, then it shall not be defined or become undefined in a 
statement executed during that segment.
-If it is defined or becomes undefined by means not specified by the program 
during the execution of a segment, then it shall not be referenced, defined, 
or become undefined in a statement executed during that segment, or become 
associated with a dummy argument that has the VALUE attribute during that 

[88:NOTE 5.4] Clause 5.3.4. Add a new sentence before the last sentence of 
Note 5.4:
"The ASYNCHRONOUS attribute should also be used to specify variables that are 
involved in user-defined asynchronous data transfer, such as asynchronous I/O 
or communication performed by an external library."

[88:] Clause 5.3.4. Add a new Note 5.4+:
"The difference between the VOLATILE and ASYNCHRONOUS attributes is that the 
processor may optimize the execution of a segment assuming that all 
asynchronous data transfer happens due to means specified by the program. 
After a new segment begins, the Fortran processor should reload the most 
recent value of an asynchronous object from memory when a value is required. 
Likewise, when a segment ends, the processor should store the most recent 
Fortran definition in memory. It is the programmer's responsibility to manage 
any interaction with non-Fortran processes and to use SYNC MEMORY to delimit 
segments and thus inform the processor to disable certain optimizations. It 
is also the programmer's responsibility to only reference or define the 
variable in segments in which it is not being defined or referenced by 
non-Fortran processes.

For example:

   SUBROUTINE MY_WRITE(var, n_bytes, id)
      INTEGER, INTENT(IN) :: n_bytes
      INTEGER, INTENT(OUT) :: id
      INTEGER, INTENT(IN) :: id
REAL :: buffer(100)

buffer=... ! Definition

SYNC MEMORY ! Segment boundary
! No copy shall occur in this call since buffer is simply-contigous:
CALL MY_WRITE(buffer, SIZE(buffer)*(STORAGE_SIZE(buffer)/8), id)
! Statements not referencing or defining buffer
CALL MY_WAIT(id) ! Complete the asynchronous I/O
SYNC MEMORY ! Segment boundary

buffer=... ! Definition

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