Test-driving Intel® Xeon Phi™ coprocessors with a basic N-body simulation

January 7, 2013

Intel® Xeon Phi™ coprocessors are capable of delivering more performance and better energy efficiency than Intel® Xeon® processors for certain parallel applications. In this paper, we investigate the porting and optimization of a test problem for the Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor. The test problem is a basic N-body simulation, which is the foundation of a number of applications in computational astrophysics and biophysics. Using common code in the C language for the host processor and for the coprocessor, we benchmark the N-body simulation. The simulation runs 2.3x to 5.4x times faster on a single Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor than on two Intel Xeon E5 series processors. The performance depends on the accuracy settings for transcendental arithmetics. We also study the assembly code produced by the compiler from the C code. This allows us to pinpoint some strategies for designing C/C++ programs that result in efficient automatically vectorized applications for Intel Xeon family devices. The visualization shown below demonstrates the results and the performance of the [...]

Squeezing More Instructions per Cycle out of the Intel Sandy Bridge CPU Pipeline

July 31, 2012

Parallelism in modern CPU architectures is supported at hardware level by multiple cores, vector registers, and pipelines. While the utilization of the former two is a shared responsibility of the programmer and the compiler, pipelining is handled completely by the processor. It is, however, useful for the developer to know what types of workloads optimize pipeline utilization. This paper shows one example where a specific workload improves the number of instructions executed per clock cycle, boosting arithmetic performance. This workload is comprised of two independent data processing tasks, one performing the AVX addition instruction and the other — the AVX multiplication instruction. Even though these tasks are executed sequentially on one core, alternating additions and multiplications in the code allows the CPU to complete the task 40% faster than when a sequence of additions is followed by a sequence of multiplications. Such workloads are common in linear algebraic applications. Examples in the paper illustrate how improved performance can be achieved in portable C code [...]

Scientific Computing in a Web Browser: GALPROP WebRun

June 30, 2012

As scientific software tools become increasingly complex and computationally demanding, sharing the source code of a scientific project with the community may be insufficient to support peer interest and ensure the appropriate use of the tools. In order to facilitate the use of astrophysical code GALPROP, our group has launched a public online service named GALPROP WebRun. This service, live since August 2010, includes: the ability to configure GALPROP computing tasks in a Web browser; access to a dedicated computing cluster and precompiled binaries for code execution; and user support in the form of online documentation, automated validation tools, and forum/bug reporting online software. This paper reports the details and status of the GALPROP WebRun project as well as our experience with it. Complete paper:  Colfax_Galprop_WebRun.pdf (2 MB) — this file is available only to registered users. Register or Log [...]

Arithmetics on Intel’s Sandy Bridge and Westmere CPUs: not all FLOPs are created equal

April 30, 2012

This paper presents a new arithmetic efficiency benchmark and uses it to compare the Intel Sandy Bridge E5-2680 CPU to the Intel Westmere X5690 CPU performance. The efficiency is measured for single and double precision floating point operations: addition, multiplication, division, square root and the exponential function, and for 32- and 64-bit integer operations: addition, multiplication and division. The SSE2 and AVX instruction sets, as well as scalar operations, in single-threaded and multi-threaded modes are covered. This benchmark eliminates the effects of memory bandwidth and latency by fitting the calculation in the L1 cache. The bandwidth of the L1 cache and main memory (RAM) are estimated for reference, and the LINPACK benchmark result is reported. Results show that the E5-2680 CPU performs floating point addition and multiplication dramatically faster (up to 2.6x) than the X5690 model. However, the floating point division and square root are the new model’s weak spots. AVX floating point operations addition and multiplication are up to 2.0x faster than the SSE2; [...]

Auto-Vectorization with the Intel Compilers: is Your Code Ready for Sandy Bridge and Knights Corner?

March 12, 2012

One of the features of Intel’s Sandy Bridge-E processor released this month is the support for the Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) instruction set. Codes suitable for efficient auto-vectorization by the compiler will be able to take advantage of AVX without any code modification, with only re-compilation. This paper explains the guidelines for code design suitable for auto-vectorization by the compiler (elimination of vector dependence, implementation of unit-stride data access and proper address alignment) and walks the reader through a practical example of code development with auto-vectorization. The resulting code is compiled and executed on two computer systems: a Westmere CPU-based system with SSE 4.2 support, and a Sandy Bridge-based system with AVX support. The benefit of vectorization is more significant in the AVX version, if the code is designed efficiently. An ‘elegant’, but inefficient solution is also provided and discussed. In addition, the paper provides a comparative benchmark of the Sandy Bridge and Westmere systems, based on the discussed [...]

Large Fast Fourier Transforms with FFTW 3.3 on Terabyte-RAM NUMA Servers

February 2, 2012

This paper presents the results of a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) benchmark of the FFTW 3.3 library on Colfax’s 4-CPU, large memory servers. Unlike other published benchmarks of this library, we study two distinct cases of FFT usage: sequential and concurrent computation of multithreaded transforms. In addition, this paper provides results for very large (up to N = 231) and massively parallel (up to 80 threads) shared memory transforms, which have not yet been reported elsewhere. The FFT calculation is discussed: parallelization techniques and hardware-specific implementations; motivation for a specific astrophysical research is given. Results presented here include: dependence of performance on the transform size and on the number of threads, memory usage of multithreaded 1D FFTs, estimates of the FFT planning time. The paper shows how to optimize the performance of concurrent independent calculations on these large memory systems by setting an efficient NUMA policy. This policy partitions the machine’s resources, reducing the average memory latency. Such optimization [...]

Terabyte RAM Servers: Memory Bandwidth Benchmark and How to Boost RAM Bandwidth by 20% with a Single Command

January 4, 2012

Colfax International produces servers capable of supporting up to 1 TB of RAM and up to 4 Intel Xeon CPUs. This paper reports the memory bandwidth benchmark of these servers obtained using the STREAM code. Our benchmark includes comprehensive statistical data: the mean, standard deviation, extrema and the distribution of bandwidth measurements. The distribution of measurements reveals several modes of RAM performance, including an above-average bandwidth mode. By default, the mode realized by any given benchmark depends on an unpredictable runtime pattern of thread and memory binding to the physical cores. The paper shows how to optimize memory traffic for bandwidth and consistently achieve the fastest mode. This is done by controlling the code’s thread affinity, and results in a bandwidth increase around 20% over the average unoptimized performance. Without optimization, the measured RAM bandwidth with one thread is 5.79±0.06 GB/s (the ‘copy’ test), and it scales almost linearly with the number of threads until it peaks at 67±6 GB/s at 20 threads. [...]
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