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What is Parallel Processing?

By Vikram Sehjpal
Updated: May 16, 2024

Parallel processing is the simultaneous processing of the same task on two or more microprocessors in order to obtain faster results. The computer resources can include a single computer with multiple processors, or a number of computers connected by a network, or a combination of both. The processors access data through shared memory. Some supercomputer parallel processing systems have hundreds of thousands of microprocessors.

With the help of parallel processing, a number of computations can be performed at once, bringing down the time required to complete a project. It is particularly useful in projects that require complex computations, such as weather modeling and digital special effects. Let's take a real-life example to understand the efficacy of this type of processing.

If a busy shopping mall has got only a single cash counter, the customers will form a single queue, and wait for their turn. If there are two cash counters, the task can be effectively split. The customers will form two queues and will be served twice as fast. This is an instance in which parallel processing is an effective solution.

With the help of parallel processing, highly complicated scientific problems that are otherwise extremely difficult to solve can be solved effectively. Parallel computing can be effectively used for tasks that involve a large number of calculations, have time constraints and can be divided into a number of smaller tasks.

Parallel processing is particularly beneficial in areas such as weather and climate, chemical and nuclear reactions, oil exploration, measuring seismic data, space technology, electronic circuits, human genome, medicine, advanced graphics and virtual reality, and manufacturing processes.

In all likelihood, parallelism is the future of computing. On the whole, successful implementation of parallel computing involves two challenges:

  • Tasks should be structured in such a manner that they can be executed at the same time
  • The sequence of tasks which must be executed one after the other should be maintained
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Discussion Comments
By lwp001 — On Jan 31, 2013

Using a pizza oven analogy, how would multiprocessing and parallel computing apply?

By anon43701 — On Aug 31, 2009

what is the difference between multiprocessing and parallel processing?

By bebezai — On Jun 04, 2009

Question: explain how parallel processing affects the speed of computer processing...?(8marks)

can anyone answer this question?? waiting for your reply.

By kaleem — On Dec 30, 2007

what is major difference between parallel and multiprocessing?

By anon3611 — On Sep 08, 2007

The term for this definition is "Multiprocessing."

Further, what this definition is talking about is Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP).

The counter analogy mentioned in this refers to threads of a process being split to different microprocessors for simultaneous processing.

Parallel Processing is where "chunks" of a thread or set of threads is sent to a number of processors simultaneously, thereby making processing time become (in a perfect world) virtually non-existent.

As of this date (09/08/2007) true parallel processing does not exist in any form, including supercomputing. Massively Parallel Processing, however, does exist, which is the chunks get sent to the microprocessors in sequence.

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