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Section: Research Program

Load balancing algorithms for complex simulations

Participants : Cyril Bordage, Aurélien Esnard, Pierre Ramet, Jean Roman.

Many important physical phenomena in material physics and climatology are inherently complex applications. They often use multi-physics or multi-scale approaches, which couple different models and codes. The key idea is to reuse available legacy codes through a coupling framework instead of merging them into a stand-alone application. There is typically one model per different scale or physics and each model is implemented by a parallel code.

For instance, to model a crack propagation, one uses a molecular dynamic code to represent the atomistic scale and an elasticity code using a finite element method to represent the continuum scale. Indeed, fully microscopic simulations of most domains of interest are not computationally feasible. Combining such different scales or physics is still a challenge to reach high performance and scalability.

Another prominent example is found in the field of aeronautic propulsion: the conjugate heat transfer simulation in complex geometries (as developed by the CFD team of CERFACS) requires to couple a fluid/convection solver (AVBP) with a solid/conduction solver (AVTP). As the AVBP code is much more CPU consuming than the AVTP code, there is an important computational imbalance between the two solvers.

In this context, one crucial issue is undoubtedly the load balancing of the whole coupled simulation that remains an open question. The goal here is to find the best data distribution for the whole coupled simulation and not only for each stand-alone code, as it is most usually done. Indeed, the naive balancing of each code on its own can lead to an important imbalance and to a communication bottleneck during the coupling phase, which can drastically decrease the overall performance. Therefore, we argue that it is required to model the coupling itself in order to ensure a good scalability, especially when running on massively parallel architectures (tens of thousands of processors/cores). In other words, one must develop new algorithms and software implementation to perform a coupling-aware partitioning of the whole application. Another related problem is the problem of resource allocation. This is particularly important for the global coupling efficiency and scalability, because each code involved in the coupling can be more or less computationally intensive, and there is a good trade-off to find between resources assigned to each code to avoid that one of them waits for the other(s). What does furthermore happen if the load of one code dynamically changes relatively to the other one? In such a case, it could be convenient to dynamically adapt the number of resources used during the execution.

There are several open algorithmic problems that we investigate in the HiePACS project-team. All these problems uses a similar methodology based upon the graph model and are expressed as variants of the classic graph partitioning problem, using additional constraints or different objectives.

Dynamic load-balancing with variable number of processors

As a preliminary step related to the dynamic load balancing of coupled codes, we focus on the problem of dynamic load balancing of a single parallel code, with variable number of processors. Indeed, if the workload varies drastically during the simulation, the load must be redistributed regularly among the processors. Dynamic load balancing is a well studied subject but most studies are limited to an initially fixed number of processors. Adjusting the number of processors at runtime allows one to preserve the parallel code efficiency or keep running the simulation when the current memory resources are exceeded. We call this problem, MxN graph repartitioning.

We propose some methods based on graph repartitioning in order to re-balance the load while changing the number of processors. These methods are split in two main steps. Firstly, we study the migration phase and we build a “good” migration matrix minimizing several metrics like the migration volume or the number of exchanged messages. Secondly, we use graph partitioning heuristics to compute a new distribution optimizing the migration according to the previous step results.

Load balancing of coupled codes

As stated above, the load balancing of coupled code is a major issue, that determines the performance of the complex simulation, and reaching high performance can be a great challenge. In this context, we develop new graph partitioning techniques, called co-partitioning. They address the problem of load balancing for two coupled codes: the key idea is to perform a "coupling-aware" partitioning, instead of partitioning these codes independently, as it is classically done. More precisely, we propose to enrich the classic graph model with inter-edges, which represent the coupled code interactions. We describe two new algorithms, and compare them to the naive approach. In the preliminary experiments we perform on synthetically-generated graphs, we notice that our algorithms succeed to balance the computational load in the coupling phase and in some cases they succeed to reduce the coupling communications costs. Surprisingly, we notice that our algorithms do not degrade significantly the global graph edge-cut, despite the additional constraints that they impose.

Besides this, our co-partitioning technique requires to use graph partitioning with fixed vertices, that raises serious issues with state-of-the-art software, that are classically based on the well-known recursive bisection paradigm (RB). Indeed, the RB method often fails to produce partitions of good quality. To overcome this issue, we propose a new direct k-way greedy graph growing algorithm, called KGGGP, that overcomes this issue and succeeds to produce partition with better quality than RB while respecting the constraint of fixed vertices. Experimental results compare KGGGP against state-of-the-art methods, such as Scotch, for real-life graphs available from the popular DIMACS'10 collection.

Load balancing strategies for hybrid sparse linear solvers

Graph handling and partitioning play a central role in the activity described here but also in other numerical techniques detailed in sparse linear algebra Section. The Nested Dissection is now a well-known heuristic for sparse matrix ordering to both reduce the fill-in during numerical factorization and to maximize the number of independent computation tasks. By using the block data structure induced by the partition of separators of the original graph, very efficient parallel block solvers have been designed and implemented according to super-nodal or multi-frontal approaches. Considering hybrid methods mixing both direct and iterative solvers such as HIPS or MaPHyS, obtaining a domain decomposition leading to a good balancing of both the size of domain interiors and the size of interfaces is a key point for load balancing and efficiency in a parallel context.

We intend to revisit some well-known graph partitioning techniques in the light of the hybrid solvers and design new algorithms to be tested in the Scotch package.