Intel TBB Benefits

Intel® Threading Building Blocks (Intel® TBB) is a library that helps you leverage multi-core performance without having to be a threading expert. Typically you can improve performance for multi-core processors by implementing the key points explained in the early sections of the User Guide. As your expertise grows, you may want to dive into more complex subjects that are covered in advanced sections.

There are a variety of approaches to parallel programming, ranging from using platform-dependent threading primitives to exotic new languages. The advantage of Intel® Threading Building Blocks is that it works at a higher level than raw threads, yet does not require exotic languages or compilers. You can use it with any compiler supporting ISO C++. The library differs from typical threading packages in the following ways:

  • Intel® Threading Building Blocks enables you to specify logical paralleism instead of threads. Most threading packages require you to specify threads. Programming directly in terms of threads can be tedious and lead to inefficient programs, because threads are low-level, heavy constructs that are close to the hardware. Direct programming with threads forces you to efficiently map logical tasks onto threads. In contrast, the Intel® Threading Building Blocks run-time library automatically maps logical parallelism onto threads in a way that makes efficient use of processor resources.

  • Intel® Threading Building Blocks targets threading for performance. Most general-purpose threading packages support many different kinds of threading, such as threading for asynchronous events in graphical user interfaces. As a result, general-purpose packages tend to be low-level tools that provide a foundation, not a solution. Instead, Intel® Threading Building Blocks focuses on the particular goal of parallelizing computationally intensive work, delivering higher-level, simpler solutions.

  • Intel® Threading Building Blocks is compatible with other threading packages. Because the library is not designed to address all threading problems, it can coexist seamlessly with other threading packages.

  • Intel® Threading Building Blocks emphasizes scalable, data parallel programming. Breaking a program up into separate functional blocks, and assigning a separate thread to each block is a solution that typically does not scale well since typically the number of functional blocks is fixed. In contrast, Intel® Threading Building Blocks emphasizes data-parallel programming, enabling multiple threads to work on different parts of a collection. Data-parallel programming scales well to larger numbers of processors by dividing the collection into smaller pieces. With data-parallel programming, program performance increases as you add processors.

  • Intel® Threading Building Blocks relies on generic programming. Traditional libraries specify interfaces in terms of specific types or base classes. Instead, Intel® Threading Building Blocks uses generic programming. The essence of generic programming is writing the best possible algorithms with the fewest constraints. The C++ Standard Template Library (STL) is a good example of generic programming in which the interfaces are specified by requirements on types. For example, C++ STL has a template function sort that sorts a sequence abstractly defined in terms of iterators on the sequence. The requirements on the iterators are:

    • Provide random access

    • The expression *i<*j is true if the item pointed to by iterator i should precede the item pointed to by iterator j, and false otherwise.

    • The expression swap(*i,*j) swaps two elements.

Specification in terms of requirements on types enables the template to sort many different representations of sequences, such as vectors and deques. Similarly, the Intel® Threading Building Blocks templates specify requirements on types, not particular types, and thus adapt to different data representations. Generic programming enables Intel® Threading Building Blocks to deliver high performance algorithms with broad applicability.

For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.