Petascale solvers for anisotropic PDEs in atmospheric modelling on GPU clusters

Eike Mueller, Robert Scheichl, Eero Vainikko

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Memory bound applications such as solvers for large sparse systems of equations remain a challenge for GPUs. Fast solvers should be based on numerically efficient algorithms and implemented such that global memory access is minimised. To solve systems with trillions ($\order(10^{12})$) unknowns the code has to make efficient use of several million individual processor cores on large GPU clusters.

We describe the multi-GPU implementation of two algorithmically optimal iterative solvers for anisotropic PDEs which are encountered in (semi-) implicit time stepping procedures in atmospheric modelling. In this application the condition number is large but independent of the grid resolution and both methods are asymptotically optimal, albeit with different absolute performance. In particular, an important constant in the discretisation is the CFL number; only the multigrid solver is robust to changes in this constant. We parallelise the solvers and adapt them to the specific features of GPU architectures, paying particular attention to efficient global memory access. We achieve a performance of up to 0.78 PFLOPs when solving an equation with $0.55\cdot 10^{12}$ unknowns on 16384 GPUs; this corresponds to about $3\%$ of the theoretical peak performance of the machine and we use more than $40\%$ of the peak memory bandwidth with a Conjugate Gradient (CG) solver. Although the other solver, a geometric multigrid algorithm, has a slightly worse performance in terms of FLOPs per second, overall it is faster as it needs less iterations to converge; the multigrid algorithm can solve a linear PDE with half a trillion unknowns in about one second.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-69
Number of pages20
JournalParallel Computing
Early online date28 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • iterative solver
  • multigrid
  • Graphics Processing Unit
  • massively parallel
  • atmospheric modelling


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