Scientists Probe Solar Wind with Blue Waters Supercomputer

June 2, 2014

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., June 2 — Talk about a mathematics hot rod – how does 13 quadrillion calculations per second grab you? A scalable computer code developed at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) that efficiently uses supercomputing power, plus important areas of UAH scientific inquiry, landed scientists at the Department of Space Science and Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR) in the driver’s seat for a highly sought chance to run complex equations on a blisteringly fast supercomputer.

The UAH effort using the Cray Blue Waters supercomputer supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the University of Illinois, where it is located, resulted in advances in understanding solar wind and the heliosphere.

“It’s one of the fastest supercomputers in the world,” says Dr. Nikolai Pogorelov, who works closely with co-principal investigators Dr. Jacob Heerikhuisen and Dr. Sergey Borovikov, and who recently returned from a Blue Waters Symposium at Illinois. “It is the fastest supercomputer that is hosted by a university in the world.”

Power Struggle

In the competitive and code-dense world of supercomputing, think of the UAH scientists as calculations hot rodders, vying with other researchers for computer power to test-drive equations they build to provide them with scientific answers. At the same time, running these complex calculations helps tune up the machine they are using, as ways to make it run more efficiently are discovered.

“We benefit a lot from the supercomputers made by Cray, but in a lot of cases our feedback helps Cray to make a better supercomputer,” says Dr. Pogorelov. The key to achieving both results is the code used to run the program.

“If you want to do a very high resolution simulation taking advantage of a supercomputer’s parallel capabilities and architecture, you must substantially rewrite your code,” says Dr. Pogorelov.

Blue Waters uses hundreds of thousands of computational cores (central processing units) to achieve peak performance of more than 13 quadrillion calculations per second. It has more than 1.5 petabytes of memory, enough to store 300 million digital images; more than 25 petabytes of disk storage, enough to store all of the printed documents in all of the world’s libraries; and up to 500 petabytes of tape storage, enough to store 10 percent of all of the words spoken in the existence of humankind.

Getting to drive a supercomputer like that depends on acceptance by the NSF’s Petascale Computing Resource Allocations (PRAC) program of both the science being explored and efficiency shown in using the supercomputer’s resources. Scientists also use the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a single virtual system supported by the NSF they can use to interactively share computing resources, data and expertise. There’s limited supercomputing capacity available nationally, so competition is fierce.

Supercomputing Leaders

“The combination of these skills allowed us to be leaders in supercomputing in the country,” says Dr. Pogorelov. “In the NSF proposal process, one goal was that only the most advanced codes should be used to achieve breakthrough results.”

That is no easy task, and the UAH researchers wrote 150,000 lines of a heliospheric modeling code they call Multi-Scale Fluid-Kinetic Simulation Suite (MS-FLUKSS) in C++ and Fortran for their experiments.

(For more information on the code, see “Modeling Solar Wind Flow with the Multi-Scale Fluid-Kinetic Simulation Suite;” Pogorelov, N. V.; Borovikov, S. N.; Bedford, M. C.; Heerikhuisen, J.; Kim, T. K.; Kryukov, I. A.; Zank, G. P., in Numerical Modeling of Space Plasma Flows, San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conf. Ser. 474, 2013, p 165. A more recent paper, “MS-FLUKSS and Its Application to Modeling Flows of Partially Ionized Plasma in the Heliosphere,” has been accepted as one of only 10 Lightning Talks to be given at XSEDE14 in Atlanta July 13-18.)

When the UAH scientists added their code to the Chombo framework – a publicly available software for adaptive solution of partial differential equations developed by the team’s long-time collaborators at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – the result was 650,000 total lines of code.

“As a result, even doing a simple thing is not straightforward in these codes and requires a specific combination of skills in physics and space and computer science. It so happened that our group was already strong,” Dr. Pogorelov says. UAH’s code writers had already piloted the Cray Jaguar and Kraken, meanwhile perfecting their parallelization and data handling techniques. “When we submitted the proposal, we were expected to prove our code was scalable.”

Using Blue Waters, Dr. Pogorelov says the team demonstrated its ability to scale its code to efficiently utilize 160,000 computing cores.

Two Scientific Questions

The researchers used the supercomputer to probe two scientific questions, both involving the interaction of the solar wind with the local interstellar medium nearby. The first involves why the Voyager 1 spacecraft surprised scientists by penetrating interstellar space years earlier than models had predicted it would (“Voyager 1 Near the Heliopause;” S. N. Borovikov; N. V. Pogorelov; The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Vol. 783, No. 1, 2014).

“In our study, we found out that there is an instability of the heliosphere that results in deep penetration of interstellar plasma into the heliosphere,” says Dr. Pogorelov. The heliosphere, a vast “bubble” of plasma blown out from the sun, constantly presses against the greater pressure of the interstellar plasma. As the sun advances, it leaves a contrail of solar wind behind it and pushes a boundary of heliosphere ahead.

Dr. Pogorelov and Dr. Borovikov found that there are pockets of interstellar plasma that push into that boundary, called the heliopause, and they conclude that Voyager 1 entered a pocket to shorten its journey into interstellar plasma, a result Dr. Pogorelov is confident in. “This looks like the real thing,” he said.

The second scientific question regarded the flow of the long “heliotail” contrail left by the sun, which the researchers examined using plasma kinetic particle analysis. “We modeled it, and we found that the heliotail can be very long,” says Dr. Pogorelov (“Three-dimensional, numerical simulation of the heliotail using the kinetic model”; a talk by Sergey Borovikov; 2013 Fall AGU Meeting).

“We found out that the heliotail strongly mixes with the interstellar material to where the heliotail eventually seems to disappear,” Dr. Pogorelov says. Their calculations showed the tail extending out to over 5,000 astronomical units. “Our prediction is that the heliotail can extend to 20,000 astronomical units downwind.” To get an idea of just how long that is, just one astronomical unit is 149,597,871 kilometers.

“Technically, we are solving the system of magnetohydrodynamic equations coupled with a kinetic Boltzmann equation,” Dr. Pogorelov says. The Boltzmann equation is named for Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann, an Austrian physicist and philosopher whose greatest achievement was in the development of statistical mechanics, which explains and predicts how the properties of atoms determine the physical properties of matter. “From a scientific viewpoint, it is very important that we model neutral atoms kinetically with the Boltzmann equation because collisions are very rare between hydrogen atoms and ions.”

Such solutions “take a lot of computational power,” says Dr. Pogorelov. “It is not only our previous research that made it possible to use this supercomputer, but our current research then leads to new results that create funding to support more projects on new questions.”

One area of possible future exploration the UAH team has acquired support to deal with from NASA is a smart, adaptive refinement of the computational grid used to explore the heliosphere. “The idea is that we can perform small-scale simulations of instabilities and magnetic reconnection locally,” Dr. Pogorelov says, “while simultaneously doing a good job in the resolution of global features of the solar wind’s interaction with the interstellar medium.”

Source: University of Alabama Huntsville

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visitors to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver for the larg Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Keynote – HPC Powers SKA Efforts to Peer Deep into the Cosmos

November 17, 2017

This week’s SC17 keynote – Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope – was a powerful pitch for the potential of Big Science projects that also showcased the foundational role of high performance computing in modern science. It was also visually stunning. Read more…

By John Russell

How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

November 17, 2017

Cities are sensoring up, collecting vast troves of data that they’re running through predictive models and using the insights to solve problems that, in some cases, city managers didn’t even know existed. Speaking Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Harness Scalable Petabyte Storage with HPE Apollo 4510 and HPE StoreEver

As a growing number of connected devices challenges IT departments to rapidly collect, manage, and store troves of data, organizations must adopt a new generation of IT to help them operate quickly and intelligently. Read more…

SC17 Student Cluster Competition Configurations: Fewer Nodes, Way More Accelerators

November 16, 2017

The final configurations for each of the SC17 “Donnybrook in Denver” Student Cluster Competition have been released. Fortunately, each team received their equipment shipments on time and undamaged, so the teams are r Read more…

By Dan Olds

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visit Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Keynote – HPC Powers SKA Efforts to Peer Deep into the Cosmos

November 17, 2017

This week’s SC17 keynote – Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope – was a powerful pitch for the potential of Big Science projects that also showcased the foundational role of high performance computing in modern science. It was also visually stunning. Read more…

By John Russell

How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

November 17, 2017

Cities are sensoring up, collecting vast troves of data that they’re running through predictive models and using the insights to solve problems that, in some Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster LINPACK Record Shattered! More LINs Packed Than Ever before!

November 16, 2017

Nanyang Technological University, the pride of Singapore, utterly destroyed the Student Cluster Competition LINPACK record by posting a score of 51.77 TFlop/s a Read more…

By Dan Olds

Hyperion Market Update: ‘Decent’ Growth Led by HPE; AI Transparency a Risk Issue

November 15, 2017

The HPC market update from Hyperion Research (formerly IDC) at the annual SC conference is a business and social “must,” and this year’s presentation at S Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Focuses Its Cloud Containers on HPC Applications

November 14, 2017

Having migrated its top-of-the-line datacenter GPU to the largest cloud vendors, Nvidia is touting its Volta architecture for a range of scientific computing ta Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Launches ARM-based Apollo System for HPC, AI

November 14, 2017

HPE doubled down on its memory-driven computing vision while expanding its processor portfolio with the announcement yesterday of the company’s first ARM-base Read more…

By Doug Black

OpenACC Shines in Global Climate/Weather Codes

November 14, 2017

OpenACC, the directive-based parallel programming model used mostly for porting codes to GPUs for use on heterogeneous systems, came to SC17 touting impressive Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This