Section: Scientific Foundations

Large size problems

Parallelism, domain decomposition, code transformation


The applications we consider lead to very large size computational problems for which we need to apply modern computing techniques enabling to use efficiently many computers including traditional high performance parallel computers and computational grids.

The full Vlasov-Maxwell system yields a very large computational problem mostly because the Vlasov equation is posed in six-dimensional phase-space. In order to tackle the most realistic possible physical problems, it is important to use all the modern computing power and techniques, in particular parallelism and grid computing.

Parallelization of numerical methods

An important issue for the practical use of the methods we develop is their parallelization. We address the problem of tuning these methods to homogeneous or heterogeneous architectures with the aim of meeting increasing computing resources requirements.

Most of the considered numerical methods apply a series of operations identically to all elements of a geometric data structure: the mesh of phase space. Therefore these methods intrinsically can be viewed as a data-parallel algorithm. A major advantage of this data-parallel approach derives from its scalability. Because operations may be applied identically to many data items in parallel, the amount of parallelism is dictated by the problem size.

Parallelism, for such data-parallel PDE solvers, is achieved by partitioning the mesh and mapping the sub-meshes onto the processors of a parallel architecture. A good partition balances the workload while minimizing the communications overhead. Many interesting heuristics have been proposed to compute near-optimal partitions of a (regular or irregular) mesh. For instance, the heuristics based on space-filing curves [73] give very good results for a very low cost.

Adaptive methods include a mesh refinement step and can highly reduce memory usage and computation volume. As a result, they induce a load imbalance and require to dynamically distribute the adaptive mesh. A problem is then to combine distribution and resolution components of the adaptive methods with the aim of minimizing communications. Data locality expression is of major importance for solving such problems. We use our experience of data-parallelism and the underlying concepts for expressing data locality [81] , optimizing the considered methods and specifying new data-parallel algorithms.

As a general rule, the complexity of adaptive methods requires to define software abstractions allowing to separate/integrate the various components of the considered numerical methods (see [79] as an example of such modular software infrastructure).

Another key point is the joint use of heterogeneous architectures and adaptive meshes. It requires to develop new algorithms which include new load balancing techniques. In that case, it may be interesting to combine several parallel programming paradigms, i.e. data-parallelism with other lower-level ones.

Moreover, exploiting heterogeneous architectures requires the use of a run time support associated with a programming interface that enables some low-level hardware characteristics to be unified. Such run time support is the basis for heterogeneous algorithmics. Candidates for such a run time support may be specific implementations of MPI such as MPICH-G2 (a grid-enabled MPI implementation on top of the GLOBUS tool kit for grid computing [64] ).

Our general approach for designing efficient parallel algorithms is to define code transformations at any level. These transformations can be used to incrementally tune codes to a target architecture and they warrant code reusability.