Section: Research Program

High performance solvers for large linear algebra problems

Participants : Emmanuel Agullo, Olivier Coulaud, Mathieu Faverge, Aurélien Falco, Luc Giraud, Abdou Guermouche, Oguz Kaya, Esragul Korkmaz, Matthieu Kuhn, Gilles Marait, Grégoire Pichon, Louis Poirel, Jean Rene Poirier, Pierre Ramet, Jean Roman, Cristobal Samaniego Alvarado, Guillaume Sylvand, Nicolas Venkovic.

Starting with the developments of basic linear algebra kernels tuned for various classes of computers, a significant knowledge on the basic concepts for implementations on high-performance scientific computers has been accumulated. Further knowledge has been acquired through the design of more sophisticated linear algebra algorithms fully exploiting those basic intensive computational kernels. In that context, we still look at the development of new computing platforms and their associated programming tools. This enables us to identify the possible bottlenecks of new computer architectures (memory path, various level of caches, inter processor or node network) and to propose ways to overcome them in algorithmic design. With the goal of designing efficient scalable linear algebra solvers for large scale applications, various tracks will be followed in order to investigate different complementary approaches. Sparse direct solvers have been for years the methods of choice for solving linear systems of equations, it is nowadays admitted that classical approaches are not scalable neither from a computational complexity nor from a memory view point for large problems such as those arising from the discretization of large 3D PDE problems. We will continue to work on sparse direct solvers on the one hand to make sure they fully benefit from most advanced computing platforms and on the other hand to attempt to reduce their memory and computational costs for some classes of problems where data sparse ideas can be considered. Furthermore, sparse direct solvers are a key building boxes for the design of some of our parallel algorithms such as the hybrid solvers described in the sequel of this section. Our activities in that context will mainly address preconditioned Krylov subspace methods; both components, preconditioner and Krylov solvers, will be investigated. In this framework, and possibly in relation with the research activity on fast multipole, we intend to study how emerging -matrix arithmetic can benefit to our solver research efforts.

Parallel sparse direct solver

For the solution of large sparse linear systems, we design numerical schemes and software packages for direct and hybrid parallel solvers. Sparse direct solvers are mandatory when the linear system is very ill-conditioned; such a situation is often encountered in structural mechanics codes, for example. Therefore, to obtain an industrial software tool that must be robust and versatile, high-performance sparse direct solvers are mandatory, and parallelism is then necessary for reasons of memory capability and acceptable solution time. Moreover, in order to solve efficiently 3D problems with more than 50 million unknowns, which is now a reachable challenge with new multicore supercomputers, we must achieve good scalability in time and control memory overhead. Solving a sparse linear system by a direct method is generally a highly irregular problem that induces some challenging algorithmic problems and requires a sophisticated implementation scheme in order to fully exploit the capabilities of modern supercomputers.

New supercomputers incorporate many microprocessors which are composed of one or many computational cores. These new architectures induce strongly hierarchical topologies. These are called NUMA architectures. In the context of distributed NUMA architectures, in collaboration with the Inria STORM team, we study optimization strategies to improve the scheduling of communications, threads and I/O. We have developed dynamic scheduling designed for NUMA architectures in the PaStiX solver. The data structures of the solver, as well as the patterns of communication have been modified to meet the needs of these architectures and dynamic scheduling. We are also interested in the dynamic adaptation of the computation grain to use efficiently multi-core architectures and shared memory. Experiments on several numerical test cases have been performed to prove the efficiency of the approach on different architectures. Sparse direct solvers such as PaStiX are currently limited by their memory requirements and computational cost. They are competitive for small matrices but are often less efficient than iterative methods for large matrices in terms of memory. We are currently accelerating the dense algebra components of direct solvers using hierarchical matrices algebra.

In collaboration with the ICL team from the University of Tennessee, and the STORM team from Inria, we are evaluating the way to replace the embedded scheduling driver of the PaStiX solver by one of the generic frameworks, PaRSEC or StarPU, to execute the task graph corresponding to a sparse factorization. The aim is to design algorithms and parallel programming models for implementing direct methods for the solution of sparse linear systems on emerging computer equipped with GPU accelerators. More generally, this work will be performed in the context of the ANR SOLHAR project which aims at designing high performance sparse direct solvers for modern heterogeneous systems. This ANR project involves several groups working either on the sparse linear solver aspects (HiePACS and ROMA from Inria and APO from IRIT), on runtime systems (STORM from Inria) or scheduling algorithms (REALOPT and ROMA from Inria). The results of these efforts will be validated in the applications provided by the industrial project members, namely CEA-CESTA and Airbus Central R & T.

Hybrid direct/iterative solvers based on algebraic domain decomposition techniques

One route to the parallel scalable solution of large sparse linear systems in parallel scientific computing is the use of hybrid methods that hierarchically combine direct and iterative methods. These techniques inherit the advantages of each approach, namely the limited amount of memory and natural parallelization for the iterative component and the numerical robustness of the direct part. The general underlying ideas are not new since they have been intensively used to design domain decomposition techniques; those approaches cover a fairly large range of computing techniques for the numerical solution of partial differential equations (PDEs) in time and space. Generally speaking, it refers to the splitting of the computational domain into sub-domains with or without overlap. The splitting strategy is generally governed by various constraints/objectives but the main one is to express parallelism. The numerical properties of the PDEs to be solved are usually intensively exploited at the continuous or discrete levels to design the numerical algorithms so that the resulting specialized technique will only work for the class of linear systems associated with the targeted PDE.

In that context, we continue our effort on the design of algebraic non-overlapping domain decomposition techniques that rely on the solution of a Schur complement system defined on the interface introduced by the partitioning of the adjacency graph of the sparse matrix associated with the linear system. Although it is better conditioned than the original system the Schur complement needs to be precondition to be amenable to a solution using a Krylov subspace method. Different hierarchical preconditioners will be considered, possibly multilevel, to improve the numerical behaviour of the current approaches implemented in our software libraries HIPS and MaPHyS. This activity will be developed in the context of the ANR DEDALES project. In addition to this numerical studies, advanced parallel implementation will be developed that will involve close collaborations between the hybrid and sparse direct activities.

Linear Krylov solvers

Preconditioning is the main focus of the two activities described above. They aim at speeding up the convergence of a Krylov subspace method that is the complementary component involved in the solvers of interest for us. In that framework, we believe that various aspects deserve to be investigated; we will consider the following ones:

  • preconditioned block Krylov solvers for multiple right-hand sides. In many large scientific and industrial applications, one has to solve a sequence of linear systems with several right-hand sides given simultaneously or in sequence (radar cross section calculation in electromagnetism, various source locations in seismic, parametric studies in general, ...). For “simultaneous" right-hand sides, the solvers of choice have been for years based on matrix factorizations as the factorization is performed once and simple and cheap block forward/backward substitutions are then performed. In order to effectively propose alternative to such solvers, we need to have efficient preconditioned Krylov subspace solvers. In that framework, block Krylov approaches, where the Krylov spaces associated with each right-hand side are shared to enlarge the search space will be considered. They are not only attractive because of this numerical feature (larger search space), but also from an implementation point of view. Their block-structures exhibit nice features with respect to data locality and re-usability that comply with the memory constraint of multicore architectures. We will continue the numerical study and design of the block GMRES variant that combines inexact break-down detection, deflation at restart and subspace recycling. Beyond new numerical investigations, a software implementation to be included in our linear solver libray Fabulous originately developed in the context of the DGA HiBox project.

  • Extension or modification of Krylov subspace algorithms for multicore architectures: finally to match as much as possible to the computer architecture evolution and get as much as possible performance out of the computer, a particular attention will be paid to adapt, extend or develop numerical schemes that comply with the efficiency constraints associated with the available computers. Nowadays, multicore architectures seem to become widely used, where memory latency and bandwidth are the main bottlenecks; investigations on communication avoiding techniques will be undertaken in the framework of preconditioned Krylov subspace solvers as a general guideline for all the items mentioned above.


Many eigensolvers also rely on Krylov subspace techniques. Naturally some links exist between the Krylov subspace linear solvers and the Krylov subspace eigensolvers. We plan to study the computation of eigenvalue problems with respect to the following two different axes:

  • Exploiting the link between Krylov subspace methods for linear system solution and eigensolvers, we intend to develop advanced iterative linear methods based on Krylov subspace methods that use some spectral information to build part of a subspace to be recycled, either though space augmentation or through preconditioner update. This spectral information may correspond to a certain part of the spectrum of the original large matrix or to some approximations of the eigenvalues obtained by solving a reduced eigenproblem. This technique will also be investigated in the framework of block Krylov subspace methods.

  • In the context of the calculation of the ground state of an atomistic system, eigenvalue computation is a critical step; more accurate and more efficient parallel and scalable eigensolvers are required.