Concurrent computing is the process where a single or multiple systems do several calculations simultaneously or within overlapping time frames. The idea is to run various threads or instruction sets based on a given schedule. As such, the program should run independently of the parent or main process. Systems or components can work together without one or all waiting for the other tasks to be completed.
Imagine a car assembly line. Each system is programmed to manufacture a car part. Let’s say there are 10 different parts and a device for each piece. But there are 11 machines running simultaneously; the eleventh assembles the car. All 11 machines can work at the same time. Every time any of 10 parts assemblers are done, it can pass on the completed car part to the eleventh device. The last machine can then just wait for all 10 systems to finish and thus achieve its task as well.
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What Are the Main Types of Concurrent Computing?
Concurrent computing has three main types—multithreading, asynchrony, and preemptive multitasking. Read on to find out more about each.
In multithreading, the program or operating system (OS) can run many different threads at the same time. That allows a computer to maximize the use of available central processing unit (CPU) power and save the user time.
Some examples of multithreading applications are photo, audio, and video editing; formula processing; computer-aided design (CAD); and programming code compilation software.
Asynchronous computing is useful when processes work independently. An example would be when a program needs to gather and analyze data from several databases. Since correlation can take time, the program can proceed with other necessary steps to complete the task while waiting for data gathering and analysis results. That shortens the time for users to complete tasks as the program can work on multiple processes simultaneously.
In preemptive multitasking, the computer’s OS can switch between software. In a way, it prevents a program from fully taking control of the computer’s processor. That way, multiple programs can continue to run without freezing or crashing.
Each of these methods carries special precautions that must be carefully considered to ensure that no process will be affected by an uncontrolled sequence of events stemming from another process.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Concurrent Computing?
Concurrent computing has several advantages, including:
- Allow overlapping inputs and outputs: Programs that can overlap input/output (IO) data and computations provide better throughput in that they make the most use of available CPU power.
- Increase responsiveness: Through using multiple threads, programs become more responsive to commands. Instead of waiting for another operation to finish, applications can use the waiting time to complete other processes. For example, a graphical user interface (GUI) thread can smoothly respond to button clicks while a different thread performs other background tasks.
- Less overhead: A thread is easier to manage than an inter-process communication (IPC) or data exchange between multiple threads in one or more processes. Additionally, since all process communications are done within a single processor, it is much more affordable.
The major downside to using concurrent computing is that it is complicated to develop. Often, concurrent computing software have bugs that may be notoriously hard to detect and address.
Did you know that the concept of concurrent computing started as early as the 1800s? At that time, track operators had to manage multiple trains running on a single railroad. The idea of concurrent computing allowed them to use the tracks while preventing accidents efficiently.