An Efficient Multiway Mergesort for GPU Architectures

Henri Casanova, John Iacono, Ben Karsin, Nodari Sitchinava, Volker Weichert
University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA
arXiv:1702.07961 [cs.DS], (26 Feb 2017)


   title={An Efficient Multiway Mergesort for GPU Architectures},

   author={Casanova, Henri and Iacono, John and Karsin, Ben and Sitchinava, Nodari and Weichert, Volker},






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Sorting is a primitive operation that is a building block for countless algorithms. As such, it is important to design sorting algorithms that approach peak performance on a range of hardware architectures. Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are particularly attractive architectures as they provides massive parallelism and computing power. However, the intricacies of their compute and memory hierarchies make designing GPU-efficient algorithms challenging. In this work we present GPU Multiway Mergesort (MMS), a new GPU-efficient multiway mergesort algorithm. MMS employs a new partitioning technique that exposes the parallelism needed by modern GPU architectures. To the best of our knowledge, MMS is the first sorting algorithm for the GPU that is asymptotically optimal in terms of global memory accesses and that is completely free of shared memory bank conflicts. We realize an initial implementation of MMS, evaluate its performance on three modern GPU architectures, and compare it to competitive implementations available in state-of-the- art GPU libraries. Despite these implementations being highly optimized, MMS compares favorably, achieving performance improvements for most random inputs. Furthermore, unlike MMS, state-of-the-art algorithms are susceptible to bank conflicts. We find that for certain inputs that cause these algorithms to incur large numbers of bank conflicts, MMS can achieve a 33.7% performance improvement over its fastest competitor. Overall, even though its current implementation is not fully optimized, due to its efficient use of the memory hierarchy, MMS outperforms the fastest comparison-based sorting implementations available to date.
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