Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Research Program

Algorithms for probabilistic environments

There are two main research directions under this research theme. In the first one, we consider the problem of the efficient execution of applications in a failure-prone environment. Here, probability distributions are used to describe the potential behavior of computing platforms, namely when hardware components are subject to faults. In the second research direction, probability distributions are used to describe the characteristics and behavior of applications.

Application resilience

An application is resilient if it can successfully produce a correct result in spite of potential faults in the underlying system. Application resilience can involve a broad range of techniques, including fault prediction, error detection, error containment, error correction, checkpointing, replication, migration, recovery, etc. Faults are quite frequent in the most powerful existing supercomputers. The Jaguar platform, which ranked third in the TOP 500 list in November 2011 [44], had an average of 2.33 faults per day during the period from August 2008 to February 2010 [68]. The mean-time between faults of a platform is inversely proportional to its number of components. Progresses will certainly be made in the coming years with respect to the reliability of individual components. However, designing and building high-reliability hardware components is far more expensive than using lower reliability top-of-the-shelf components. Furthermore, low-power components may not be available with high-reliability. Therefore, it is feared that the progresses in reliability will far from compensate the steady projected increase of the number of components in the largest supercomputers. Already, application failures have a huge computational cost. In 2008, the DARPA white paper on “System resilience at extreme scale” [43] stated that high-end systems wasted 20% of their computing capacity on application failure and recovery.

In such a context, any application using a significant fraction of a supercomputer and running for a significant amount of time will have to use some fault-tolerance solution. It would indeed be unacceptable for an application failure to destroy centuries of CPU-time (some of the simulations run on the Blue Waters platform consumed more than 2,700 years of core computing time [39] and lasted over 60 hours; the most time-consuming simulations of the US Department of Energy (DoE) run for weeks to months on the most powerful existing platforms [42]).

Our research on resilience follows two different directions. On the one hand we design new resilience solutions, either generic fault-tolerance solutions or algorithm-based solutions. On the other hand we model and theoretically analyze the performance of existing and future solutions, in order to tune their usage and help determine which solution to use in which context.

Scheduling strategies for applications with a probabilistic behavior

Static scheduling algorithms are algorithms where all decisions are taken before the start of the application execution. On the contrary, in non-static algorithms, decisions may depend on events that happen during the execution. Static scheduling algorithms are known to be superior to dynamic and system-oriented approaches in stable frameworks [50], [56], [57], [67], that is, when all characteristics of platforms and applications are perfectly known, known a priori, and do not evolve during the application execution. In practice, the prediction of application characteristics may be approximative or completely infeasible. For instance, the amount of computations and of communications required to solve a given problem in parallel may strongly depend on some input data that are hard to analyze (this is for instance the case when solving linear systems using full pivoting).

We plan to consider applications whose characteristics change dynamically and are subject to uncertainties. In order to benefit nonetheless from the power of static approaches, we plan to model application uncertainties and variations through probabilistic models, and to design for these applications scheduling strategies that are either static, or partially static and partially dynamic.