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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M01147X/1
Title: SERT: Scale-free, Energy-aware, Resilient and Transparent Adaptation of CSE Applications to Mega-core Systems
Principal Investigator: Nikolopoulos, Professor D
Other Investigators:
de Supinski, Professor B Vandierendonck, Dr H T K Ashworth, Dr M
Scott, Professor NS Dongarra, Professor J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Numerical Algorithms Group Ltd
Department: Sch of Electronics, Elec Eng & Comp Sci
Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2015 Ends: 31 March 2018 Value (£): 963,929
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Software Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies R&D
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Sep 2014 Software for the Future Call II Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Moore's Law and Dennard scaling have led to dramatic performance increases in microprocessors, the basis of modern supercomputers, which consist of clusters of nodes that include microprocessors and memory. This design is deeply embedded in parallel programming languages, the runtime systems that orchestrate parallel execution, and computational science applications.

Some deviations from this simple, symmetric design have occurred over the years, but now we have pushed transistor scaling to the extent that simplicity is giving way to complex architectures. The absence of Dennard scaling, which has not held for about a decade, and the atomic dimensions of transistors have profound implications on the architecture of current and future supercomputers.

Scalability limitations will arise from insufficient data access locality. Exascale systems will have up to 100x more cores and commensurately less memory space and bandwidth per core. However, in-situ data analysis, motivated by decreasing file system bandwidths will increase the memory footprints of scientific applications. Thus, we must improve per-core data access locality and reduce contention and interference for shared resources.

Energy constraints will fundamentally limit the performance and reliability of future large-scale systems. These constraints lead many to predict a phenomenon of "dark silicon" in which half or more of the transistors on each chip must be powered down for safe operation. Low-power processor technologies based on sub-threshold or near-threshold voltage operation are a viable alternative. However, these techniques dramatically decrease the mean time to failure at scale and, thus, require new paradigms to sustain throughput and correctness.

Non-deterministic performance variation will arise from design process variation that leads to asymmetric performance and power consumption in architecturally symmetric hardware components. The manifestations of the asymmetries are non-deterministic and can vary with small changes to system components or software. This performance variation produces non-deterministic, non-algorithmic load imbalance.

Reliability limitations will stem from the massive number of system components, which proportionally reduces the mean-time-to-failure, but also from the component wear and from low-voltage operation, which introduces timing errors. Infrastructure-level power capping may also compromise application reliability or create severe load imbalances.

The impact of these changes on technology will travel as a shockwave throughout the software stack. For decades, we have designed computational science applications based on very strict assumptions that performance is uniform and processors are reliable. In the future, hardware will behave unpredictably, at times erratically. Software must compensate for this behavior.

Our research anticipates this future hardware landscape. Our ecosystem will combine binary adaptation, code refactoring, and approximate computation to prepare CSE applications. We will provide them with scale-freedom - the ability to run well at scale under dynamic execution conditions - with at most limited, platform-agnostic code refactoring. Our software will provide automatic load balancing and concurrency throttling to tame non-deterministic performance variations. Finally, our new form of user-controlled approximate computation will enable execution of CSE applications on hardware with low supply voltages, or any form of faulty hardware, by selectively dropping or tolerating erroneous computation that arises from unreliable execution, thus saving energy. Cumulatively, these tools will enable non-intrusive reengineering of major computational science libraries and applications (2DRMP, Code_Saturne, DL_POLY, LB3D) and prepare them for the next generation of UK supercomputers. The project partners with NAG a leading UK HPC software and service provider.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.qub.ac.uk