Efficiency Considerations of PERL and Python in Distributed Processing

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1 Efficiency Considerations of PERL and Python in Distributed Processing Roger Eggen (presenter) Computer and Information Sciences University of North Florida Jacksonville, FL (fax) Maurice Eggen Department of Computer Science Trinity University San Antonio, TX (fax) Abstract: With the resurgence of interest in distributed processing and programming of distributed systems, researchers are exploring methods and techniques for facilitating programming of such systems. In this paper we demonstrate the ease of use and performance characteristics of socket communication for scripting languages PERL and Python. Productivity is enhanced when developing distributed applications while considering the performance tradeoffs incurred as compared to other popular languages. Keywords: PERL, Python, Java, Distributed and Parallel Processing 1 Introduction Distributed and parallel processing belong to one of the most important areas of research in our modern computing world. From the Web to large scale numerical algorithms, distributed and parallel methods dominate distributed processing applications. It is important for researchers and software engineers to have a wealth of tools available to them for programming such distributed systems. In this paper, we advocate the use of easy parallel algorithm development languages such as PERL and Python. We compare the speed and efficiency of these vehicles with Java, which is widely used for these applications. 2 Fundamentals A distributed system is a collection of independent computers interconnected by a network and capable of cooperating to achieve the solution of a problem. The computers are considered loosely coupled if they do not share memory and have individual processors. Important programming strides have been made in recent years to provide applications programming environments that make distributed computing more common and easier to implement than in the past. The message passing interface (MPI), parallel virtual machine (PVM), Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), Java s Remote Method Invocation (RMI), PERL s SOAP interface, and others have extended ordinary languages to provide methods (functions, procedures) facilitating distributed computing. PERL and Python are not often used in distributed applications, but these languages are extremely easy to program and have features that support parallel programming and Web interfaces rivaling any available language.

2 In this paper, we study the basis of all Web and distributed communication over a network, that of sockets. We compare the socket communication of PERL and Python to Java for ease of development and overall efficiency. 3 PERL PERL is an open source, cross-platform programming language capable of performing a wide variety of applications. The word PERL is an acronym for Practical Extraction and Report Language. Used in both the public and private sectors, PERL is supported by UNIX, Macintosh, Windows and many more operating systems. PERL comprises the best features of many languages, including C, awk, sed, sh and Basic. PERL works with HTML, XML, and other markup languages to support unicode and both procedural and object oriented paradigms. PERL is extensible. Because of its excellent text processing capabilities, PERL is perhaps the most widely used Web programming language. Applications written using the PERL language include, but are not limited to the following: Application servers Artificial intelligence algorithms Astronomy Audio Bioinformatics Compression and encryption Content management systems (for both small and large scale Web sites) Database interfaces Date/Time Processing ecommerce processing GUI development Generic algorithms Graphing and charting Image processing Mathematical and statistical programming Natural language processing (in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Finnish, among others) Network programming Operating-system integration with Windows, Solaris, Linux, Mac OS, etc. PERL/Apache integration Spam identification Software testing Templating systems Prototyping for fast development Text processing Web services, Web clients, and Web servers XML/HTML processing [1] The following code performs the socket communication in Perl: my $host2 = 'node2' my $port2 = 2008; my $protocol2 = getprotobyname('tcp'); socket(sock2,af_inet,sock_stream, $protocol1) my $dest_addr2 = sockaddr_in($port2,$host2); connect(sock2,$dest_addr2) print SOCK2 $x; 4. Python Python is an easy to learn, powerful programming language. Efficient highlevel data structures lead to a simple, but effective approach to object-oriented programming. Python's elegant syntax and dynamic typing together with its interpreted nature make it an ideal language for scripting and rapid application development in many areas and on most platforms.

3 The Python interpreter and the extensive standard library are freely available in source or binary form for all major platforms from the Python Web site. [2] The same site also contains distributions of and pointers to many free third party Python modules, programs and tools, and additional documentation. Python is object oriented with a class structure similar to Java. In many respects, Python has the best features of Java and avoids much of the clutter, particularly in the input/output category. Python supports multiple inheritance, polymorphism, and all the other features expected of an object oriented language. The Python interpreter is easily extended with new functions and data types implemented in C or C++ (or other languages callable from C). Python is also suitable as an extension language for customizable applications. [2] The following code performs the socket communication in Python: HOST = 'node2' # The remote host PORT = 5002 # port for server s = socket.socket(socket.af_inet,socket. SOCK_STREAM) s.connect((host, PORT)) st = a.tostring() s.send(st) Again, the communication using Python is easy and direct. 5 Hardware The hardware for evaluating socket efficiency consists of a Beowulf cluster of computers all running RedHat linux v9. The machines are 0.5 ghz machines with 512 megabytes of main memory connected by gigabit fast ethernet. 6 Software The software consists of Python 2.2.2, RedHat 9 Linux core , PERL installed with threading, and Java HotSpot 1.4.1_01. Only Linux machines were involved to remove discrepancies caused by different operating systems. 7 Programming a Distributed System Programming a distributed system, regardless of the programming environment used, involves several fundamentals. Typically, one of three scenarios are used: boss/worker where the boss distributes a portion of the work uniquely, worker crew where each processor does essentially the same processing on different portions of the data, often referred to as single instruction multiple data (SIMD), and a pipeline where each worker processes a portion of the data, passing that partial solution to the next worker. In this research we use the boss/worker environment as shown in Figure 1. A boss process defines the task to be accomplished and decides the method of distribution. Several worker processes do the actual work. The worker starts by listening to the socket for the arrival of work from the boss. The boss is the controlling process that has the responsibility of dividing the task appropriately. A portion of the task is sent to each of the workers. The boss waits to receive the completed tasks. Each of the workers execute in parallel. They each receive their task from the boss without interaction with other workers.

4 Worker Worker... Worker Figure 1 Communication Dependency 8 Evaluation Boss The purpose of this research is to determine how much a user gains (or gives up) to enjoy the ease of programming languages PERL and Python in distributed applications. We chose a simple sorting algorithm. Sorting is well understood and ubiquitous in computing, so it seemed a reasonable place to start. We programmed an n 2 sort so reasonable time would be taken on each of the server machines, creating a measure of both communication and computation times. Boss and workers are programmed using Java, PERL, and Python. Each application is implemented with exactly the same functionality. The boss machine creates sets of integers whose cardinality vary between 1,000 and 256,000. Each set was then evenly divided and distributed among the worker machines. Each worker sorted their portion of the data, yielding a highly parallel solution. The communication from boss to worker to boss was handled through native sockets. Sockets provide the foundation of all Web applications and consequently impact the performance of any Web based process. As is often the case, the boss did not participate in the primary task, but rather distributed the work and waited for results. Timings included dividing and distributing the data, sorting each data set, receiving the sorted results from each worker, and merging to arrive at a totally sorted set of data. 9 Results Datasets of sizes 1000, 2000, 4000, 8000, 16000, 32000, 64000, , and , were sorted and timed. Since the machines used in this experiment were not dedicated to the researchers, times were taken at 3:00AM when network traffic and users were at a minimum. These machines are lightly used, so unplanned impact on communication is virtually nonexistent. The authors have carefully checked the algorithms, each is correct and implemented in a consistent manner. The timing results are in Figure 2. We note that the efficiency of PERL is significantly less than that of Java. A variety of considerations were employed to increase PERL s efficiency, each with limited success. PERL ran 90% as fast as PERL 5.8.3, so one should certainly ensure the latest version of PERL is used. Also, threading is relatively new to PERL, only coming into existence in the 5.8.x versions. Threaded PERL runs 96% as fast as a non-threaded installation. In a distributed application, installation of a threaded version of PERL is essential. The PERL application can be compiled to native code using perlcc. Perlcc is in a nonstable state and should not be used for production applications, but it did generate native code. However, the native code executed only 92% as fast as the code directly interpreted. We expect

5 a significant increase in performance when perlcc is enhanced. The authors were surprised to see the performance comparison between Python, PERL, and Java. We expected Python to perform much better when compared to the other languages. A less defined measure is programmer productivity. We carefully monitored our development time for each of the applications. While this is somewhat arbitrary, ill defined, and rather qualitative, we believe our experience is suggestive of the nature one can expect when considering these environments. Upon evaluation of our respective experiences in each environment, we believe programmer time was most efficient in Python, Perl a close second, and development of the Java application approximately 30% longer. We realize this consideration is highly arbitrary, but believe programmer productivity is a significant factor in cost of application development. Processors Data Size PERL Python Java PERL Python Java PERL Python Java Figure 2 Efficiency Timings 10 Summary and Conclusions If the fastest application processing possible is the goal, PERL, Python, or Java would not be the choice. PVM or MPI with native routines will outperform all the above applications. However, when developer productivity, ease of programming, portability, and prototyping are desired, PERL and Python are viable alternatives. PERL and Python support a robust and convenient API for implementing distributed and Web based applications. There are many Web based applications programmed in PERL, since it is easy to implement. Java s socket communication is efficient, which accounts for some of its performance. Also, interpreting byte code is more efficient than pure interpretation. Note, each application scales appropriately with the size of the data set. 11 Future Research In JavaSpace s Linda-like environment, the efficiency in a non-reliable networking environment should be studied to determine the impact of a loaded network or failed processes. Part

6 of the advantages of JavaSpaces is its ability to recover from failure of processes, processors, or the network. PERL provides a SOAP-Lite Web based environment. Ease of programming and efficiency of applications development should be considered. 12 Bibliography [1] [2] [3] Wall, L., Christiansen, T., and Orwant, J. Programming Perl. O REILLY (2000). [4] Liu, M. Distributed Computing. Addison Wesley. Boston (2004). [5] Stein, L. Network Programming with Perl. Addison Wesley. Boston (2001). [6] Christiansen, T. and Torkington, N. Perl Cookbook. O REILLY. Sebastopol, CA.(1998). [7] Schwartz, R. Speeding up Your Perl Programs. Sys Admin CMP Media LLC. November 2003, pp

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