I have seen a few papers on parallel/GPU processing of trees, but after briefly looking through them I wasn't able to grasp what they did. The closest to a helpful explanation was found in Parallelization: Binary Tree Traversal in this diagram:

enter image description here

But having a difficult time following the paper.

Wondering if one could outline an algorithm for parallel processing of a tree. Somehow I can imagine this being possible, and seeing papers on it suggests it is, but I can't really think of what you would do to make it happen.

If it's any help, specifically I'm wondering how to traverse a B+tree to find the matches.


Here is another diagram (from here) which seems to shed some light, but having difficulty understanding.

enter image description here

  • The paper you link seems to be talking about normal, recursively defined trees. Do you have a link to something talking about trees on a GPU? – Caleth Apr 25 '18 at 15:01
  • @Caleth There are a few papers that mention GPU tree traversals, but can't tell if they are good. "Recently, irregular algorithms such as ... kd-tree traversals have been implemented on GPUs" (docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/…) "For example, in our transformed Barnes-Hut kernel we load a partial node that only contains the position vector of the current node and its type" in section "Transforming CPU traversals for the GPU". – Lance Pollard Apr 25 '18 at 15:39
  • @Caleth I think this is a presentation for the paper. They have concepts autoropes, lockstepping, and warps, which adds to it. – Lance Pollard Apr 25 '18 at 15:43
  • This one says "We develop data parallel a tree traversal algorithm - Parallel Scanning and Backtracking (PSB) that processes multiple branches of a tree node in parallel ... To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work that parallelizes kNN query processing on the n-ary tree structured index for the GPU." – Lance Pollard Apr 25 '18 at 15:47
  • ...But reading section "Parallel Scan and Backtrack for kNN Query" I don't see anything about GPU vectors and whatnot to actually make it possible. Not sure where I'm missing stuff. – Lance Pollard Apr 25 '18 at 15:53

It's very simple.

When you would recurse down the left child then the right child, instead start a task that recurses down the left, and continue down the right. When you are done with the right, you may have to wait on the left, but in a balanced tree that won't be long

When you are at depth N in your tree, you have the potential for 2^N cores working

That specific diagram is only spawning tasks at specific depths, probably because it isn't queueing tasks. That is using knowledge of the structure of the tree to not overload the scheduler

If you have a task queue and a thread pool, the implementation can leverage those to not have to worry about the quantity of tasks spawned.

Say you have

class Node 
    int data; // or w/e

    Node * left;
    Node * right;

    template <typname Action>
    void SerialTraverse(Action action)
        action(data); // Pre-order traversal

        if (left) left->SerialTraverse(action);
          // Traverse the left
        if (right) right->SerialTraverse(action);
          // Traverse the right

namespace library 
    template<typename Task, typename Class, typename Arg>
    std::future<void> enqueue_task(Task task, Class * obj, Arg arg);
    // on some other thread, call "obj->task(arg);"
    // returns a handle upon which we can wait

Then you can change SerialTraverse to

    template <typname Action>
    void ParallelTraverse(Action action)
        std::future<void> fut;
        if (left) fut = library::enqueue_task(ParallelTraverse, left, action);
          // start traversing left on another thread

        if (right) right->ParallelTraverse(action);
          // traverse right on this thread, in parallel to traversing left

        if (fut.valid()) fut.wait();
          // wait for the left traversal to end
  • 1
    To paraphrase Caleth's answer, to force individual threads (spawned tasks) to descend a particular branch (say, one of the colors in the diagram), simply pass in "a list of turns (left, right) to be taken from the starting point" as an input to each task. – rwong Apr 25 '18 at 10:48
  • 2
    @rwong or just a reference to whichever node it would start from – Caleth Apr 25 '18 at 10:54
  • Not really following. So taking WebGL as an example, what is the input array of data, like [nodeid, lnodeid, rnodeid, nodeid, lnodeid, ...] or something, where the block size is 3, and you return something in the array like the turn to go on next? That's what I gather (still not quite following) from @rwong comment. Ah so you do two full-depth branches at the same time, then move onto the next pair of branches? (Thinking of a B+tree instead of a binary tree like the diagram suggests). – Lance Pollard Apr 25 '18 at 13:03
  • @LancePollard I've added an example of transforming a serial tree algorithm to an equivalent parallel algorithm. The important point is that you start both actions on the left and right children without waiting for the other to be done – Caleth Apr 25 '18 at 13:20
  • @Caleth thank you, I can kind of see how that would be parallel using threads, wondering though how this would be done on the GPU with limited data. Reflected that in the question. Thank you. – Lance Pollard Apr 25 '18 at 13:42

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