Integrating Visualization Support Into Distributed Computing Systems

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Topol, Brad Byer
Stasko, John T.
Sunderam, Vaidy
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Visualization and animation tools may become extremely important aids in the understanding, verification, and performance tuning of parallel computations. Presently, however, the use of visualization has had only a limited use for enhancing parallel computation. We hypothesize that one of the primary reasons for the limited use of visualization tools in parallel program development is the difficulty of acquiring the information necessary to drive the visual display. Our approach to this impediment focuses on integrating visualization support directly into a distributed computing system. Central to this integration is the addition of a logical clock that prevents the timestamps of events from violating causality. The implementation requires the "piggybacking" of a negligible amount of extra header information on system messages and the impact on performance is minimal. This results in a system that produces useful visualizations with no extra effort required by the applications programmer. Also integrated into the distributed system is support which simplifies the creation of programmer-defined, application-specific visualizations, unique to each new parallel program developed.
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