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What Is a Collective Operation?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 16, 2024
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A collective operation is a type of computer function that uses some or all of the nodes on a computer network. The function normally either is to send or to receive data, and most of the operations affect all the nodes on the network. While there are other ways of sending and receiving data over a network, a collective operation tends to be faster because of how the functions are processed. A network must have a certain type of framework that has this tool, or administrators may not be able to perform any collective functions.

When a computer network is made, two or more devices are connected so they can work together or so each device can contribute to processing. Nodes are one of the more important network aspects when a collective operation is used, because the operation affects the nodes. These nodes are any devices connected to the network; the nodes normally are computers, but a device with its own Internet protocol (IP) address can be considered a node.

The most common collective operation functions are sending and receiving. A send function relays data to nodes, while a receive function takes data from nodes and delivers them to a main computer. These functions usually affect all the nodes, especially with receive commands, but administrators are able to specify certain nodes that are or are not affected by a collective operation.

Other methods for sending or receiving data over a network exist, and they may perform functions in a similar way. The main advantage of a collective operation is speed, because this method tends to take less time than similar methods. This is because this operation tends to be processed in the background, so it does not affect currently running programs or computers, and the network framework normally specifies a certain amount of memory for this operation to use. When this operation is used, it begins using that spare memory.

One problem with using a collective operation is that it may not be available for all computer networks. To use this, the network should have a network framework that specifically supports this feature. This feature tends to save the most time when used over a large network, so this is commonly seen on frameworks for bigger networks. While this can be used for a smaller network, the time advantage may not be as pronounced.

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