ASCCED: Asynchronous Scientific Continuous Computations Exploiting Disaggregation


The design of efficient and scalable scientific simulation software is reaching a critical point whereby continued advances are increasingly harder, more labour-intensive, and thus more expensive to achieve. This challenge emanates from the constantly evolving design of large-scale high-performance computing systems. World-leading (pre-)exascale systems, as well as their successors, are characterised by multi-million-scale parallel computing activities and a highly heterogeneous mix of processor types such as high-end many-core processors, Graphics Processing Units (GPU), machine learning accelerators, and various accelerators for compression, encryption and in-network processing. To make efficient use of these systems, scientific simulation software must be decomposed in various independent components and make simultaneous use of the variety of heterogeneous compute units.

Developing efficient, scalable scientific simulation software for these systems becomes increasingly harder as the limits of parallelism available in the simulation codes is approached. Moreover, the limit of parallelism cannot be reached in practice due to heterogeneity, system imbalances and synchronisation overheads. Scientific simulation software often persists over several decades. The software is optimised and re-optimised repeatedly as the design and scale of the target hardware evolves at a much faster pace, as impactful changes in the hardware may occur every few years. One may thus find that the guiding principles that underpin such software are outdated.

The ASCCED project will fundamentally change the status quo in the design of scientific simulation software by simplifying the design to reduce software development and maintenance effort, to facilitate performance optimisation, and to make software more robust to future evolution of computing hardware. The key distinguishing factor of our approach is to structure scientific simulation software as a collection of loosely coupled parallel activities. We will explore the opportunities and challenges of applying techniques previously developed for Parallel Discrete Event Simulation (PDES) to orchestrate these loosely coupled parallel activities. This radically novel approach will enable runtime system software to extract unprecedented scales of parallelism and to minimise performance inefficiencies due to synchronisation. Additionally, based on a speculative execution mechanism, it will uncover parallelism that has not been feasible to extract before.

The computational model proposed by ASCCED will, if successful, initiate a new direction of research within programming models for high-performance computing that may dramatically impact not only the performance of scientific simulation software, but can also reduce the engineering effort required to produce efficient scientific simulation software. It will have a profound impact on the sciences that are highly dependent on leadership computing capabilities, such as climate modeling and cancer research.

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