Throughput of pipeline

The throughput of a pipeline is the rate at which tokens flow through it, and is limited by two constraints. First, if a pipeline is run with N tokens, then obviously there cannot be more than N operations running in parallel. Selecting the right value of N may involve some experimentation. Too low a value limits parallelism; too high a value may demand too many resources (for example, more buffers). Second, the throughput of a pipeline is limited by the throughput of the slowest sequential filter. This is true even for a pipeline with no parallel filters. No matter how fast the other filters are, the slowest sequential filter is the bottleneck. So in general you should try to keep the sequential filters fast, and when possible, shift work to the parallel filters.

The text processing example has relatively poor speedup, because the serial filters are limited by the I/O speed of the system. Indeed, even with files that are on a local disk, you are unlikely to see a speedup much more than 2. To really benefit from a pipeline, the parallel filters need to be doing some heavy lifting compared to the serial filters.

The window size, or sub-problem size for each token, can also limit throughput. Making windows too small may cause overheads to dominate the useful work. Making windows too large may cause them to spill out of cache. A good guideline is to try for a large window size that still fits in cache. You may have to experiment a bit to find a good window size.

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