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What is non-blocking communication?

In non-blocking communication, the communication will happen in the background while the process is free to do something else in the mean time
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When communication routines are blocking, it means the programme is stuck waiting as long as communication is taking place.

Blocking routines will exit only once it is safe to access the data involved in the communication. Even though some MPI implementations may, for example, cache the data to be sent and release the call before the receive happens, it is not guaranteed and certainly not something to rely on.

Besides blocking communication, MPI also supports non-blocking communication. In non-blocking communication, the communication will happen in the background while the process is free to do something else in the mean time.

Usually this means doing some local calculations while waiting for some synchronisation with neighbouring processes to be finished.

What is the difference?

The key differences between blocking and non-blocking communications are:

    • Methods are called isend, irecv, Isend, etc.
    • Call will return immediately (communication happens in the background)
    • Return value is a Request object

Using non-blocking communication allows concurrent computation and communication and avoids many common deadlock situations. Non-blocking communication is usually the smart way to do point-to-point communication in MPI.

How is non-blocking communication finalised?

All non-blocking communication needs to be finalised at some point. One can either wait for the communication to be finished or test the current status.

If you want to wait for the communication started with isend or irecv (or Isend etc.) to finish, you can simply use wait(). It is a blocking call that will wait until the communication referred to by the Request object is finished.

To test whether a non-blocking communication is finished or not, you can use test(). It is a non-blocking call that will return True if the communication is finished and False if not.

The status (True/False) is contained in a tuple where the second element is the return value from the MPI call. For example, for a finished irecv() this would be the received data, whereas for Irecv()it would be None.

You can mix non-blocking and blocking point-to-point routines. So, for example it is perfectly fine to receive a message sent with isend() using recv().

What is an example of non-blocking send/receive?

rank = comm.Get_rank()

size = comm.Get_size()

if rank == 0:
 data = arange(size, dtype=float) * (rank + 1)
 req = comm.Isend(data, dest=1) # start a send
 calculate_something(rank) # .. do something else ..
 req.wait() # wait for send to finish
 # safe to read/write data again

elif rank == 1:
 data = empty(size, float)
 req = comm.Irecv(data, source=0) # post a receive
 calculate_something(rank) # .. do something else ..
 req.wait() # wait for receive to finish
 # data is now ready for use

What are multiple non-blocking operations?

Functions waitall() and waitany() may come in handy when dealing with multiple non-blocking operations (available in the MPI.Request class). As the names imply, waitall will wait for all initiated requests to complete and waitany will wait for one of the initiated requests to complete.

For example, assuming requests is a list of request objects, one can wait for all of them to be finished with:


Similar functions are also available for testing multiple requests.

What is an example of non-blocking message chain?

from mpi4py import MPI

import numpy

rank = comm.Get_rank()
size = comm.Get_size()

data = numpy.arange(10, dtype=float) * (rank + 1) # send buffer
buffer = numpy.zeros(10, dtype=float) # receive buffer

tgt = rank + 1
src = rank - 1
if rank == 0:
if rank == size - 1:

req = []
req.append(comm.Isend(data, dest=tgt))
req.append(comm.Irecv(buffer, source=src))


How can computation and communication overlap?

request_in = comm.Irecv(ghost_data)
request_out = comm.Isend(border_data)


© CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 by CSC - IT Center for Science Ltd.
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Python in High Performance Computing

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