[MITgcm-support] Optimal System/CPUtype for MITgcm?

Martin Losch Martin.Losch at awi.de
Wed Nov 19 09:09:33 EST 2008

Hi there,

I have been meaning to reply to this email for a long time, but never  
got around to it. As far as I can see there has been no feedback  
whatsoever, so I'll be the first, although I am by no means a  

This is my experience:

The MITgcm code has (as I recently learned) a relatively low  
"computational intensity" (FLOPS/memory access); incidentally, that  
seems to be true for any fluid dynamics code, and is to some extend  
related to the type of equations that we are solving. It is intented  
for both parallel and vector architecture machines.
For a good performance you obviously need fast cpus (with fast memory  
access) and reasonable bandwidth between cpus.

- A machine where this was realized to a high degree is our Cray XD1  
with amd (single core) opteron cpus. There I could not notice any  
overhead for applications ranging from 1 to 64 cpus (or machine does  
not have more).
- IBM p690, P4 work very well, too, as long as the individual nodes  
have a fast connection. We have small IBM where jobs scale linear up  
to 8CPU on one node, but do not scale at all across nodes. For very  
MPI-intensive jobs (may passive tracers) I had to modify the way the  
exchanges are handled for ptracers even on the best configuration.
- I get by far the best throughput on our NEC-SX8-R (vector)  
computer. My best results are on the order of 7.5GFLOPS on 1CPU and  
5GFLOPS/CPU on 24CPU (3nodes), so 120GFLOPS (I am sure that Jens-Olaf  
will correct me on these numbers)
- recently, we've had a bad experience on an Altix with Intel  
quadcore cpus (see this thread: <http://forge.csail.mit.edu/pipermail/ 
mitgcm-support/2008-October/005731.html> and the following postings).  
In the end I never closed the thread, but these are conclusions: On  
that particular machine there were two problems: 1. the connection of  
nodes was slow (not sure whether this is related to hardward or MPI  
implementation). 2. the memory bandwidth of the quadcore chips is not  
sufficient to hand 4cores, so that the memory bandwidth intensive  
MITgcm (see "computational intensity" above), does not scale when you  
use more than 2cores per chip. This observation is very similar to  
what Jeff Blundell found: <http://forge.csail.mit.edu/pipermail/ 

My conclusions are: If I were ever responsible for buying a large  
computer to run something like the MITgcm on (not very likely that  
someone will trust me with that), I would try to avoid Mulitcore- 
chips, and take care that the connection between cpus is fast.


On 5 Nov 2008, at 19:59, m. r. schaferkotter wrote:

> greetings;
> of late we/ve been less than enthused about the MITgcm performance  
> on Cray XT4 Opteron quadcore system.
> given the opportunity of choice of system/cputype pair, i would be  
> most interested in community views regarding
> the model performance on the system/cputype pairs below:
> which system/cputype would give best performance (speed)?
> which system/cputype should be avoided?
> SYSTEM                          CPUtype
> HP XC                                       Opteron
> SGI Altix 3700                          Itanium 2
> SGI Altix 4700                          Dual-Core Intel 2
> IBM Cluster 1350                    Opteron
> Linux Networx ATC                 Intel Dempsey
> Linux Networx ATC                 Intel Woodcrest
> Linux Networx Evolocity II      Intel Xeon EMT64T
> Linux Networx LS-V                Opteron
> Sun Fire X2200                        Opteron
> Sun Fire X4600                        Opteron
> Cray XT3                                   Opteron
> Crat XT4                                    Opteron
> Dell PowerEdge 1955             Intel Woodcrest
> Cray XD1                                   Opteron
> IBM P5+ Power5+                   Opteron
> Cray XT5                                  Opteron
> IBM Power6                             Power6
> IBM P575+                               Power5+
> m. r. schaferkotter
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> MITgcm-support mailing list
> MITgcm-support at mitgcm.org
> http://mitgcm.org/mailman/listinfo/mitgcm-support

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