Utility analysis of parallel simulation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Parallel computers are used to execute discrete event simulations in contexts where a serial computer is unable to provide answers fast enough, and/or is unable to hold the simulation state in memory. Traditional research in parallel simulation has focused on the degree to which a parallel simulator provides speedup. We take a different view and ask how a parallel simulator provides increased user defined utility as a result of being able to simulate larger problem sizes. We develop a model where the utility of simulating a particular simulation is an increasing function of the problem size, and ask whether overall utility accrues faster on a parallel computer if one uses it to simulate one large problem in parallel, several smaller problem instances concurrently and each in parallel, or concurrently many small problem instances on single processors. We show that under our model assumptions, utility is accrued faster either by running one large problem instance in parallel using all the available processors, or by running one small problem instance per processor, concurrently. When we consider how to optimize the utility per unit cost we find that one either runs a large problem using all available processors, multiple small problems with one per processor, or a small problem using exactly one processor. Determination of the optimal configuration depends on the user's assessment of how rapidly utility grows with the problem size. Our main contribution is to show the linkage between the effectiveness of parallel simulation and a user's perception of the value of larger problem sizes. We show that if that utility grows less than linearly in the problem size, then use of parallelism is sub-optimal. We give precise relationships between our model parameters that govern when parallelism optimizes utility, and when it optimizes price-performance. We see that when model parameters are in a "normal" range, a user's perception of utility must grow significantly-e.g. proportional to problem size raised to the 1.5th power-for parallel processing to optimize cost performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 17th Workshop on Parallel and Distributed Simulation, PADS 2003
EditorsPhilip A. Wilsey, George F. Riley
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)0769519709, 9780769519708
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes
Event17th Workshop on Parallel and Distributed Simulation, PADS 2003 - San Diego, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2003Jun 13 2003

Publication series

NameProceedings - 17th Workshop on Parallel and Distributed Simulation, PADS 2003


Other17th Workshop on Parallel and Distributed Simulation, PADS 2003
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego


  • Analytical models
  • Computational modeling
  • Computer simulation
  • Concurrent computing
  • Context modeling
  • Cost function
  • Couplings
  • Discrete event simulation
  • Educational institutions
  • Parallel processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications


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