Nick Brown's blog

PhD opportunities at EPCC

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 29 Jun 2020 | 14:38

We currently have applications open for PhD students, starting late 2020/early 2021 depending upon their situation. Four of these have been advertised on findaphd, with the closing date at the end of the month.

In addition to our MSc programmes, EPCC also hosts a number of PhD students who are researching a diverse set of areas: from traditional performance optimisation for HPC, to new data science technologies and novel computing architectures. Supervised by EPCC members of staff and housed in the Bayes, not only do these students benefit from being part of the UK’s leading HPC centre, but they also have access to the wider University’s large range of resources.

VESTEC Project Poster at ISC 2020 digital conference

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 23 Jun 2020 | 15:10

This week ISC, one of the largest conferences in the supercomputing calendar, should have been running in Frankfurt. It’s a funny feeling because, as I type, I realise that if it wasn’t for COVID-19 then, instead of being stuck at home, I would have been busy navigating the Messe Frankfurt, going from one session to another.

Using FPGAs to model the atmosphere

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 11 Dec 2019 | 15:54

The Met Office relies on some of the world’s most computationally intensive codes and works to very tight time constraints. It is important to explore and understand any technology that can potentially accelerate its codes, ultimately modelling the atmosphere and forecasting the weather more rapidly.

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) provide a large number of configurable logic blocks sitting within a sea of configurable interconnect. It has recently become easier for developers to convert their algorithms to configure these fundamental components and so execute their HPC codes in hardware rather than software. This has significant potential benefits for both performance and energy usage, but as FPGAs are so different from CPUs or GPUs, a key challenge is how we design our algorithms to leverage them.

EPCC’s ARM system: comparing the performance of MPI implementations

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 9 Dec 2019 | 12:48

MVAPICH is a high performance implementation of MPI. It is specialised for InfiniBand, Omni-Path, Ethernet/iWARP, and RoCE communication technologies, but people generally use the default module loaded on their system. This is important because, as HPC programmers, we often optimise our codes but overlook the potential performance gains of better choice of MPI implementation.

UrgentHPC SC19 workshop next week: see you in Denver!

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 12 Nov 2019 | 11:11

Here in EPCC we lead a work package of the VESTEC EU FET project which is working on the fusion of real-time data and HPC for urgent decision-making for disaster response. While HPC has a long history of simulating disasters, what’s missing to support emergency, urgent, decision-making is fast, real-time acquisition of data and the ability to guarantee time constraints.

Benchmarking MPI implementations on ARM

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 30 Aug 2019 | 11:32

The recent installation of Fulhame, the ARM HPC machine based here in EPCC as part of the Catalyst UK programme, raises plenty of interesting opportunities for exploring the HPC software ecosystem for ARM. One such aspect is the relative performance of different MPI implementations on these machines and this is what I was talking about last week at the MVAPICH User Group (MUG) workshop.

HPC for urgent decision-making

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 5 Jul 2019 | 11:13

The EU VESTEC research project is focused on the use of HPC for urgent decision-making and the project team will be running a workshop at SC’19.

VESTEC will build a flexible toolchain to combine multiple data sources, efficiently extract essential features, enable flexible scheduling and interactive supercomputing, and realise 3D visualisation environments for interactive explorations.

Too much choice?

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 17 Jun 2019 | 14:24

When is enough, enough? With so many parallel programming technologies, should we focus on consolidating them?

At the ISC conference in June I will moderate a panel discussion on whether it is time to focus on the consolidation and interoperability of existing parallel programming technologies, rather than the development of new ones.

Accelerating cloud physics and atmospheric models using GPUs, KNLs and FPGAs

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 24 Apr 2019 | 11:51

The blog post below is based on the abstract of a talk at the PASC mini-symposium 'Modelling Cloud Physics: Preparing for Exascale' (Zurich, 13 June 2019).

The Met Office NERC Cloud model (MONC) is an atmospheric model used throughout the weather and climate community to study clouds and turbulent flows. This is often coupled with the CASIM microphysics model, which provides the capability to investigate interactions at the millimetre scale and study the formation and development of moisture. One of the main targets of these models is the problem of fog, which is very hard to model due to the high resolution required – for context the main UK weather forecast resolves to 1km, whereas the fog problem requires 1metre or less.

VESTEC: saving the world one byte at a time

Author: Nick Brown
Posted: 15 Nov 2018 | 16:21

With jobs submitted to a batch system, supercomputing has traditionally been centred around an offline, non-interactive approach to running codes such as simulations. However, it is our belief that there is great potential in fusing HPC with real-time data for use as part of urgent decision-making processes in response to natural disasters and crises.