C++17's Parallelism

This chapter talks about CPU and GPU computing. It also gives a basic overview of the execution policy parameter introduced in C++ 17

Not Only Threads

Using threads is not the only way of leveraging the power of your machine.

If your system has 8 cores in the CPU then you can use 8 threads and assuming you can split your work into separate chunks then you can theoretically process your tasks 8x faster than on a single thread.

But there’s a chance to speed up things even more!

So where’s the rest of the power coming from?

Vector Instructions from CPU & GPU computing

The first element - vector instructions - allows you to compute several components of an array in a single instruction.

It’s also called SIMD - Single Instruction Multiple Data.

Most of the CPUs have 128-bit wide registers, and recent chips contain registers even 256 or 512 bits wide (AVX 256, AVX 512).

For example, using AVX-512 instructions, you can operate on 16 integer values (32-bit) at the same time!

The second element is the GPU. It might contain hundreds of smaller cores.

There are third-party APIs that allow you to access GPU/vectorization: for example, we have CUDA, OpenCL, OpenGL, Intel TBB, OpenMP and many more. There’s even a chance that your compiler will try to auto-vectorize some of the code. Still, we’d like to have such support directly from the Standard Library. That way the same code can be used on many platforms.

C++17 moves us a bit into that direction and allows us to use more computing power: it unlocks the auto-vectorization/auto-parallelization feature for algorithms in the Standard Library.


The new feature of C++17 looks surprisingly simple from a user point of view. You have a new parameter that can be pas​sed to most of the standard algorithms: this new parameter is called execution policy.

This has been introduced in the <execution> library.

Unfortunately, library support for GCC has not been released yet (2019). All the code shown in this section will work perfectly on MSVC.

Here’s a template for passing the new execution policy parameter:

Get hands-on with 1200+ tech skills courses.