An alternative to Boost.MPI for a user friendly C++ interface for MPI (MPICH).
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An alternative to Boost.MPI for a user friendly C++ interface for MPI (MPICH).


The main advantage of this library when compared to other C++ MPI wrapper that I know about is that it does not require to register user-defined types with a MPI facility like MPI_Type_*. This is true for any so-called POD type. To achieve this, internally, all the communications with MPI in this library

  1. First make sure that the type that is manipulated is indeed POD by using std::is_pod.
  2. Treat the type as an array of bytes (unsigned char).

Performances are a legitimate concern with this approach. What if, internally, the MPI implementation is able to use the knowledge of the data type to perform some optimization? However, a quick look at MPICH source hints that optimizations seem to depends only on data size, not on data type. If this information were found to be invalid, I believe that this performance issue could be fixed and that the interface of this library could still remain intact at the expense of a more complicated implementation 1.

Another choice made with this library is to support only C++11 and more. This significantly simplifies the implementation. It is plausible to think that this simplification may ultimately benifit the interface.


  • A C++ compiler that supports C++11, like recent versions of clang++ or g++ 2.
  • MPICH, an open source implementation of MPI. Other implementations of MPI might work with this library, but they were not tested.


The typical program that print the world size and the rank of each process looks like

#include <iostream>
#include <NiceMPI.h>

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {
	using namespace NiceMPI;
	NiceMPI::Initializer instance{argc,argv};
	if(mpiWorld().rank() == 0) {
		std::cout << "The world size is " <<  mpiWorld().size() << std::endl;
	std::cout << "I have rank " << mpiWorld().rank() << std::endl;
	return 0;

This program can be ran on 8 cores with mpiexec -np 8 theProgramName. The NiceMPI::Initializer struct initialize and finalize MPI using the RAII programming idiom. mpiWorld() is a function that returns a global Communicator. The class Communicator will be described in more details later. In the present context, it suffices to know that the Communicator returned by mpiWorld() is a wrapper around MPI_COMM_WORLD.

Once you have a communicator, sending and receiving data is very easy. For instance, the code to send the char 'K' from the first process in the world to the last is

const int sourceIndex = 0;
const int destinationIndex = mpiWorld().size() -1;
const unsigned char toSend = 'K';
if(mpiWorld().rank() == sourceIndex) {
if(mpiWorld().rank() == destinationIndex) {
	auto result = mpiWorld().receive<unsigned char>(sourceIndex);

You'll notice that, when necessary, the wrapper use a more precise name than the MPI function it wraps. For instance, above, MPI_Send and MPI_Recv were renamed to send and receive in order to put the emphasis on the blocking property of these functions.

As advertised, it is very easy to go from this example to an example where you send any POD type

struct MyStruct {
	double a;
	int b;
	char c;
const MyStruct toSend{6.66,42,'K'};
if(mpiWorld().rank() == sourceIndex) {
if(mpiWorld().rank() == destinationIndex) {
	auto result = mpiWorld().receive<MyStruct>(sourceIndex);

Non blocking send and receive functions are also available

if(mpiWorld().rank() == sourceIndex) {
	SendRequest r = mpiWorld().asyncSend(toSend,destinationIndex);
if(mpiWorld().rank() == destinationIndex) {
	ReceiveRequest<MyStruct> r = mpiWorld().asyncReceive<MyStruct>(sourceIndex);
	std::unique_ptr<MyStruct> data = r.take();

The classes SendRequest and ReceiveRequest also implement the function isCompleted() that returns true if the request is completed, i.e. if the data were respectively sent or received.

Typical MPI functions are implemented, and they can all be used with POD. For instance, the basic collective communication methods are

//Useless examples since every process got all the data...
MyStruct broadcasted = mpiWorld().broadcast(sourceIndex, toSend);
const int sendCount = 2;
std::vector<MyStruct> vecToSend(sendCount*mpiWorld().size());
std::vector<MyStruct> scattered = mpiWorld().scatter(sourceIndex, vecToSend, sendCount);
std::vector<MyStruct> gathered = mpiWorld().gather(sourceIndex,toSend);
std::vector<MyStruct> allGathered = mpiWorld().allGather(toSend);

Their varying counterparts are

std::vector<int> sendCounts(mpiWorld().size());
std::vector<MyStruct> scatteredv = mpiWorld().varyingScatter(sourceIndex,vecToSend,
	sendCounts); // Default displacements used
std::vector<int> displacements(mpiWorld().size());
std::vector<MyStruct> scatteredvTwo = mpiWorld().varyingScatter(sourceIndex,vecToSend,

std::vector<int> receiveCounts(mpiWorld().size());
std::vector<MyStruct> gatheredv = mpiWorld().varyingGather(sourceIndex,vecToSend,
	receiveCounts); // Default displacements used
std::vector<MyStruct> gatheredvTwo = mpiWorld().varyingGather(sourceIndex,vecToSend,

std::vector<MyStruct> allGatheredv = mpiWorld().varyingAllGather(vecToSend,
	receiveCounts); // Default displacements used
std::vector<MyStruct> allGatheredvTwo = mpiWorld().varyingAllGather(vecToSend,

Every functions defined for a single POD type is also defined for a collection of PODs. This collection can either be held in a std::vector or in a std::array. For instance,

const int count = 2;
if(mpiWorld().rank() == sourceIndex) {
	const std::vector<MyStruct> collection(count,toSend);
if(mpiWorld().rank() == destinationIndex) {
	const std::vector<MyStruct> received =


Identical v.s. Congruent communicators

When compared, MPI communicators can be identical or congruent. One can think of two identical MPI communicators as two pointers pointing on the same object. On the other hand, two congruent (but not identical) MPI communicators can be seen as two distinct objects that contain the same information (this analogy is a bit misleading since two congruent MPI communicators usually have different context, but it is enough to understand what is below).

The lines of codes

MPI_Comm mpiX;
Communicator x(mpiX);

create a Communicator that contains an MPI implementation which is congruent (and not identical) to mpiX. The MPI implementation for the communicator x has its own space in memory, and this memory is freed when x is destroyed. Of course, copy operations imply congruence, but not identity,

Communicator congruentToX(x);

It is possible to obtain Communicators that have identical MPI implementation to MPI_COMM_WORLD and MPI_COMM_SELF by using the functions mpiWolrd() and mpiSelf(). Moreover, the function createProxy(mpiX) returns a Communicator that has an identical MPI implementation to mpiX. This property is preserved when the proxy is moved

Communicator proxy = createProxy(mpiX);
Communicator identicalToProxy(std::move(proxy));

However, of course, if you copy a proxy, a new MPI implementation is created, as always when a copy is made

Communicator congruentToProxy(identicalToProxy);

In case of doubt, you can always use the functions areCongruent and areIdentical to compare two communicators.

Communicator a;
Communicator b(a);
areCongruent(a,b); // true
areIdentical(a,b); // false

Other Features

Communicators can be splitted. For instance, to create two communicators, one that contains every processes with even rank and the other that contains every processes with odd rank, one can use

const int color = a.rank() % 2;
const int key = a.rank();
Communicator splitted = a.split(color,key);

The color select the Communicator in which the current process ends up, and the key determines the rank of this process in the new Communicator.


Documentation of this project can be built using doxygen.


1 Of course, one could compress a POD so that the eventual padding zeros are not transmitted through MPI communications. This would definetily improve performances, although the actual gain would depend on how much padding the POD structure actually have.

2 The library is tested with clang version 3.8.0-2ubuntu4 (tags/RELEASE_380/final) and gcc version 5.4.0 20160609 (Ubuntu 5.4.0-6ubuntu1~16.04.4).