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During the last five years, the interest of the scientific computing community towards accelerating devices and, specifically, Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) has been rapidly growing. The reason for this interest lies in the massive computational power delivered by these devices which are originally meant and designed to perform image processing and rendering operations. Much research has been devoted to porting numerical codes on such devices which significantly contributed to the development of production-quality scientific libraries as well as of General Purpose programming models for GPUs (GPGPU). The design of GPU cards and other accelerator devices like intel Xeon-Phi (MIC), at the same time, quickly steered towards the needs of the scientific computing community; as a result modern accelerators can execute double-precision floating point arithmetical operations at rates that outperform general purpose CPU chips by a typical factor of 8. Several software libraries for dense linear algebra have been produced; the MAGMA project at University of Tennessee Knoxville (co-authored by one of this project’s partner institutions) can be cited among the most successful ones. The most common dense linear algorithms are extremely rich in computation and exhibit a very regular pattern of access to data which makes them extremely good candidates for execution on accelerators. The most common sparse linear algebra algorithms are the methods for the solution of linear systems which, contrary to the dense linear algebra variants, usually have irregular, indirect memory access patterns that adversely interact with typical accelerator throughput optimizations. These solution methods can be roughly classified in two families:

  • iterative methods: these methods are widely employed for the solution of linear systems of equations. In their basic, unpreconditioned version, they are very easily parallelizable and for this reason they have been the object of research on GPU scientific computing. However, the accelerator implementation of efficient preconditioners is extremely complicated, and the lack of such implementations renders iterative solvers for accelerators insufficiently reliable and robust at present. Furthermore, iterative methods are based on operations such as the sparse matrix-vector product characterized by a very low computation-to-communication ratio which can considerably limit their performance and scalability.
  • direct methods: in algorithms belonging to this family, such as sparse matrix factorization methods, the computation is commonly casted in terms of operations on a sparse collection of dense matrices which makes them much denser in floating-point operations and opens up opportunities for massive multithreaded parallelization and porting on accelerators. Nonetheless, sparse matrix factorization methods have extremely complicated data access patterns which render their high-performance implementation on accelerator devices complicated.

This project aims at studying and designing algorithms and parallel programming models for implementing direct methods for the solution of sparse linear systems on emerging computing platforms equipped with accelerators. The ultimate aim of this project is to achieve the implementation of a software package providing a solver based on sparse, direct methods. Several attempts have been made to port these methods on such architectures; the proposed approaches are mostly based on a simple offloading of some computational tasks (the coarsest grained ones) to the accelerators and requires a fine hand-tuning of the code and accurate performance modeling to achieve efficiency. This project proposes an innovative approach which relies on the efficiency and portability of runtime systems, such as the StarPU tool developed by the runtime team (Bordeaux). Although the SOLHAR project will focus on heterogeneous computers equipped with GPUs due to their wide availability and affordable cost, the research accomplished on algorithms, methods and programming models will be readily applicable to other accelerator devices such as Intel MIC boards or Cell processors. The development of a production-quality, sparse direct solver requires a considerable research effort along three distinct axis:

  • linear algebra: algorithms have to be adapted or redesigned in order to exhibit properties that make their implementation and execution on heterogeneous computing platforms efficient and reliable. This may require the development of novel methods for defining data access patterns that are more suitable for the dynamic scheduling of computational tasks on processing units with considerably different capabilities as well as techniques for guaranteeing a reliable and robust behavior and accurate solutions. In addition, it will be necessary to develop novel and efficient accelerator implementations of the specific dense linear algebra kernels that are used within sparse, direct solvers;
  • runtime systems: tools such as the StarPU runtime system proved to be extremely efficient and robust for the implementation of dense linear algebra algorithms. Sparse linear algebra algorithms, however, are commonly characterized by complicated data access patterns, computational tasks with extremely variable granularity and complex dependencies. Therefore, a substantial research effort is necessary to design and implement features as well as interfaces to comply with the needs formalized by the research activity on direct methods;
  • scheduling: executing a heterogeneous workload with complex dependencies on a heterogeneous architecture is a very challenging problem that demands the development of effective scheduling algorithms. These will be confronted with possibly limited views of dependencies among tasks and multiple, and potentially conflicting objectives, such as minimizing the makespan, maximizing the locality of data or, where it applies, minimizing the memory consumption.

Given the wide availability of computing platforms equipped with accelerators and the numerical robustness of direct solution methods for sparse linear systems, it is reasonable to expect that the outcome of this project will have a considerable impact on both academic and industrial scientific computing. This project will moreover provide a substantial contribution to the computational science and high-performance computing communities, as it will deliver an unprecedented example of a complex numerical code whose parallelization completely relies on runtime scheduling systems and which is, therefore, extremely portable, maintainable and evolvable towards future computing architectures. Finally, research on preconditioning methods for iterative solvers as well as on hybrid, domain-decomposition solvers for heterogeneous computing platforms will naturally benefit from the methods developed in this project.

start.txt · Last modified: 2015/03/24 22:48 by abuttari