Sending and receiving VTK data objects using MPI

Someone asked me on Twitter if it is possible to send VTK objects to slave nodes using mpi4py. The answer is sometimes. In the most general case, you need to use something like tvtk to make use of mpi4py’s ability to send/receive any pickled Python object. Even then, tvtk does not pickle references to other VTK objects so you can’t send an arbitrary graph of objects using mpi4py.

In the less general case, one can use VTK communicators to send/receive data objects. Here is a simple example:

import vtk

c = vtk.vtkMultiProcessController.GetGlobalController()

rank = c.GetLocalProcessId()

if rank == 0:
    ssource = vtk.vtkSphereSource()
    ssource.Update()
    c.Send(ssource.GetOutput(), 1, 1234)
else:
    sphere = vtk.vtkPolyData()
    c.Receive(sphere, 0, 1234)
    print sphere

See the documentation for vtkMultiProcessController and vtkMPIController to see which methods are available in C++. Note that not all of these methods are accessible in Python. It is also possible to broadcast a data object as follows.

import vtk

c = vtk.vtkMultiProcessController.GetGlobalController()

rank = c.GetLocalProcessId()

if rank == 0:
    ssource = vtk.vtkSphereSource()
    ssource.Update()
    sphere = ssource.GetOutput()
else:
    sphere = vtk.vtkPolyData()

c.Broadcast(sphere, 0)

if rank == 1:
    print sphere

Both of these methods depend on serializing a data object to a buffer using writers and reading back using readers. The legacy readers and writers are used for this. Here is how one can directly use this marshaling/unmarshaling capability with mpi4py:

from vtk.numpy_interface import dataset_adapter as dsa
from mpi4py import MPI
comm = vtk.vtkMPI4PyCommunicator.ConvertToPython(c.GetCommunicator())
import numpy

if rank == 0:
    ssource = vtk.vtkSphereSource()
    ssource.Update()
    ca = vtk.vtkCharArray()
    vtk.vtkCommunicator.MarshalDataObject(ssource.GetOutput(), ca)
    a = dsa.vtkDataArrayToVTKArray(ca)
    comm.send(a.shape[0], 1)
    comm.Send([a, MPI.CHAR], 1)
else:
    sz = comm.recv()
    buff = numpy.empty(sz, dtype=numpy.int8)
    comm.Recv([buff, MPI.CHAR])
    pd = vtk.vtkPolyData()
    vtk.vtkCommunicator.UnMarshalDataObject(dsa.numpyTovtkDataArray(buff), pd)
    print pd

It would be fairly easy to extend this example to use non-blocking communication methods available in MPI.

Finally, here is a list of data object types that are supported by the marshaling code:

  • VTK_DIRECTED_GRAPH
  • VTK_UNDIRECTED_GRAPH
  • VTK_IMAGE_DATA
  • VTK_POLY_DATA
  • VTK_RECTILINEAR_GRID
  • VTK_STRUCTURED_GRID
  • VTK_STRUCTURED_POINTS
  • VTK_TABLE
  • VTK_TREE
  • VTK_UNSTRUCTURED_GRID
  • VTK_MULTIBLOCK_DATA_SET
  • VTK_UNIFORM_GRID_AMR

I hope that this answers the question.

Questions or comments are always welcome!