Sun Studio 12 Update 1: OpenMP API User's Guide

4.1 The Execution Model

OpenMP uses a fork-join model of parallel execution. When a thread encounters a parallel construct, the thread creates a team composed of itself and some additional (possibly zero) number of threads. The encountering thread becomes the master of the new team. The other threads of the team are called helper threads of the team. All team members execute the code inside the parallel construct. When a thread finishes its work within the parallel construct, it waits at the implicit barrier at the end of the parallel construct. When all team members have arrived at the barrier, the threads can leave the barrier. The master thread continues execution of user code beyond the end of the parallel construct, while the helper threads wait to be summoned to join other teams.

OpenMP parallel regions can be nested inside each other. If nested parallelism is disabled, then the new team created by a thread encountering a parallel construct inside a parallel region consists only of the encountering thread. If nested parallelism is enabled, then the new team may consist of more than one thread.

The OpenMP runtime library maintains a pool of threads that can be used as helper threads in parallel regions. When a thread encounters a parallel construct and needs to create a team of more than one thread, the thread will check the pool and grab idle threads from the pool, making them helper threads of the team. The master thread might get fewer helper threads than it needs if there is not a sufficient number of idle threads in the pool. When the team finishes executing the parallel region, the helper threads return to the pool.