In one approach, e.g., in grid computing the processing power of a large number of computers in distributed, diverse administrative domains, is opportunistically used whenever a computer is available. An example is BOINC, a volunteer-based, opportunistic grid system, whereby the grid provides power only on a best effort basis.
In another approach, a large number of processors are used in close proximity to each other, e.g., in a computer cluster. In such a centralized system the speed and flexibility of the interconnect becomes very important, and modern supercomputers have used various approaches ranging from enhanced Infiniband systems to three-dimensional torus interconnects.
The term also applies to massively parallel processor arrays (MPPAs), a type of integrated circuit with an array of hundreds or thousands of central processing units (CPUs) and random-access memory (RAM) banks. These processors pass work to one another through a reconfigurable interconnect of channels. By harnessing a large number of processors working in parallel, an MPPA chip can accomplish more demanding tasks than conventional chips. MPPAs are based on a software parallel programming model for developing high-performance embedded system applications.
Goodyear MPP was an early implementation of a massively parallel computer architecture. MPP architectures are the second most common supercomputer implementations after clusters, as of November 2013. Examples of services and products which has a MPP implementation include Microsoft's Azure SQL Data Warehouse and Microsoft's on premise data warehousing product, Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW), which runs on the Analytics Platform System (APS).
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