Python Language Parallel computation


Due to the GIL (Global interpreter lock) only one instance of the python interpreter executes in a single process. So in general, using multi-threading only improves IO bound computations, not CPU-bound ones. The multiprocessing module is recommended if you wish to parallelise CPU-bound tasks.

GIL applies to CPython, the most popular implementation of Python, as well as PyPy. Other implementations such as Jython and IronPython have no GIL.

Using the multiprocessing module to parallelise tasks

import multiprocessing

def fib(n):
    """computing the Fibonacci in an inefficient way
    was chosen to slow down the CPU."""
    if n <= 2:
        return 1
        return fib(n-1)+fib(n-2) 
p = multiprocessing.Pool() 

# Out: [39088169, 24157817, 14930352, 9227465, 5702887, 3524578]

As the execution of each call to fib happens in parallel, the time of execution of the full example is 1.8× faster than if done in a sequential way on a dual processor.

Python 2.2+

Using Parent and Children scripts to execute code in parallel

import time

def main():
    print "starting work"
    print "work work work work work"
    print "done working"

if __name__ == '__main__':

import os

def main():
    for i in range(5):
        os.system("python &")

if __name__ == '__main__':

This is useful for parallel, independent HTTP request/response tasks or Database select/inserts. Command line arguments can be given to the script as well. Synchronization between scripts can be achieved by all scripts regularly checking a separate server (like a Redis instance).

Using a C-extension to parallelize tasks

The idea here is to move the computationally intensive jobs to C (using special macros), independent of Python, and have the C code release the GIL while it's working.

#include "Python.h"
PyObject *pyfunc(PyObject *self, PyObject *args) {
    // Threaded C code

Using PyPar module to parallelize

PyPar is a library that uses the message passing interface (MPI) to provide parallelism in Python. A simple example in PyPar (as seen at looks like this:

import pypar as pp

ncpus = pp.size()
rank = pp.rank()
node = pp.get_processor_name()

print 'I am rank %d of %d on node %s' % (rank, ncpus, node)

if rank == 0:
  msh = 'P0'
  pp.send(msg, destination=1)
  msg = pp.receive(source=rank-1)
  print 'Processor 0 received message "%s" from rank %d' % (msg, rank-1)
  source = rank-1
  destination = (rank+1) % ncpus
  msg = pp.receive(source)
  msg = msg + 'P' + str(rank)
  pypar.send(msg, destination)