What Is a Parallel Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

A parallel data structure is a type of data structure that is designed to allow multiple operations to be performed simultaneously, improving the efficiency and performance of parallel computing systems. It is an essential concept in the field of parallel computing, where multiple processors or threads work together to execute a task or solve a problem.

Advantages of Parallel Data Structures

Using parallel data structures can offer several advantages:

  • Increased Performance: Parallel data structures are optimized for parallel processing, allowing multiple operations to be performed simultaneously. This can result in significant performance improvements compared to traditional sequential data structures.
  • Efficient Resource Utilization: By distributing the workload across multiple processors or threads, parallel data structures can make more efficient use of available system resources.

    This can lead to better utilization of processing power and reduced execution times.

  • Scalability: Parallel data structures can easily scale with the number of processors or threads available in a system. As the number of processors increases, the performance of parallel algorithms utilizing these data structures can also improve proportionally.

Types of Parallel Data Structures

Fine-Grained Parallel Data Structures

Fine-grained parallel data structures are designed to allow concurrent access at a very granular level. They provide efficient support for fine-grained synchronization and are particularly suitable for scenarios where many operations need to be executed concurrently.

Coarse-Grained Parallel Data Structures

Coarse-grained parallel data structures, on the other hand, are designed to allow concurrent access at a higher level. They typically involve larger portions of the data structure being locked or synchronized together. Coarse-grained parallel data structures may not offer the same level of parallelism as fine-grained structures but can still provide performance improvements in certain scenarios.

Examples of Parallel Data Structures

There are various parallel data structures that have been developed and widely used in parallel computing:

Parallel Arrays

Parallel arrays are a form of fine-grained parallel data structure where different elements of an array can be accessed and modified concurrently. Each processor or thread operates on a subset of the array, enabling parallel processing of array-based algorithms.

Parallel Queues

Parallel queues are concurrent data structures that support multiple threads enqueueing and dequeueing elements simultaneously. They are commonly used in producer-consumer scenarios where multiple producers and consumers need to access a shared queue.

Parallel Hash Tables

Parallel hash tables allow concurrent insertions, deletions, and lookups. They leverage techniques such as lock-free or lock-based synchronization to ensure thread-safety while maximizing parallelism.


In the realm of parallel computing, using appropriate data structures can greatly enhance the performance and scalability of algorithms. Parallel data structures provide an efficient means to harness the power of multiple processors or threads by allowing concurrent access to shared data. By leveraging fine-grained or coarse-grained approaches, developers can design solutions that maximize parallelism while ensuring thread-safety.

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