Petaflops performance scored
running universe simulation
Posted November 8, 2012
A simulation of the universe’s evolution, showing the development of large-scale matter structures. Click image to enlarge and for more information.
It takes big computers to recreate the biggest thing there is – the observable universe – with enough details to help cosmologists understand how it looks and why its expansion is accelerating.
A research team led by Salman Habib and Katrin Heitmann of Argonne National Laboratory is tapping the unprecedented speed of DOE computers to help decipher mysteries of the universe. The team, including scientists at Los Alamos and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories, uses a software framework that’s run with superb efficiency on these world-class machines.
The researchers have created some of the largest and most detailed simulations yet of how the universe evolved, running on Mira, the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility’s IBM Blue Gene/Q system rated earlier this year as the world’s third fastest. The team’s HACC (Hardware/Hybrid Accelerated Cosmology Code) framework has run on more than a million processor cores. (See sidebar, “Accelerating a cosmic code.”) It follows tracer particles representing all the matter in the observable universe as gravity pulls them into clumps and strands of visible galaxies and invisible dark matter over billions of years.
The simulation has put up big numbers in Mira test runs, tracking more than a trillion particles – more than any cosmological simulation yet, the team says – and sustaining a blazing speed of 2.52 petaflops (2.52 quadrillion, or 1015, scientific calculations per second). Besides Mira, the researchers have posted significantly higher performance numbers running HACC on Sequoia, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s new 20 petaflops-capable Blue Gene/Q.
The team will reveal the results when it presents the research, “The Universe at Extreme Scale – Multi-Petaflop Sky Simulation on the BG/Q” at the SC12 supercomputing conference on Nov. 14 in Salt Lake City. The project is a finalist for the Gordon Bell Prize, awarded at each year’s conference for outstanding achievement in high-performance computing.