PyCon 2011 SOLVCON Proposal

SOLVCON: A New Python-Based Software Framework for Massively Parallelized Numerical Simulations


SOLVCON is the first Python-based software framework for high-fidelity simulations of multi-physics conservation laws. More than ninety percents of the codes are done in Python. Performance hot-spots are optimized by C and glued by ctypes library. SOLVCON is high-performance in nature and has been able to utilized 512 4-core nodes at Ohio Supercomputer Center.


In the coming decade, performance improvements of scientific computing will mainly come from major changes in the computing hardware. A well-organized software structure is imperative to accommodate such changes. Based on the Python programming language, SOLVCON is designed as a software framework to develop conservation-law solvers by segregating solving kernels from various supportive functionalities. Being the governing equations for the physical world, conservation laws are applied everywhere in scientific and engineering research. Although everyone knows that the numerical algorithms and physical models form the kernel of any conservation-laws solver, few if not none simulation software can cleanly separates those core components from supportive functionalities. Because of the lack of organization, duplicated supportive functionalities have to be reimplemented in many conventional simulation codes. Code reuse was done in the unmaintainable copy-and-paste fashion. The newly developed SOLVCON framework provides a resolved structure to accommodate the core components of conservation-law solver in segregated solving kernels. Aided by the resolved structure, hybrid parallelism, which combines shared- and distributed-memory parallelization, can also be implemented in an organized way to achieve high-fidelity simulation of conservation laws. Simulation codes by using GPU clusters will also be accommodated by SOLVCON. To date, SOLVCON has utilized up to 512 4-core nodes at Ohio Supercomputer Center for high-fidelity CFD simulations.

Supercomputing is undergoing the third revolution by the emerging GPU computing. GPU computing enables numerical analysts to reduce the time for high-fidelity simulations using up to a billion of elements from months to days. In order to use GPU computing to accelerate such large-scale problems, GPU nodes must be networked together to form a GPU cluster. As such, shared-memory and distributed-memory parallelization must be simultaneously utilized to achieve the so-called hybrid parallelism. Parallel computing is difficult, and hybrid parallel computing is more difficult. SOLVCON is developed to resolve the unavoidably complicated programming efforts. By using Python to develop the fundamental software structure, GPU or multi-threaded programming for shared-memory parallelization are locked in segregated solving kernels. Complex message-passing is implemented in SOLVCON and isolated from solving-kernel developers. The framework approach also enables pluggable multi-physics through solving kernels. Highly optimized C and GPU codes are glued into SOLVCON without loss of performance by using the ctypes package.

SOLVCON has been applied to computation fluid dynamics and computational mechanics. More physical solvers are being developed for various propagating wave problems, e.g., electromagnetic waves. By using Python as the foundation in SOLVCON, performance and extensibility are well balanced, and computational research is being done in the most productive way.


The new multi-physics software framework, SOLVCON, is being actively applied to to perform the state-of-the-art scientific simulations by its author and his coworkers. The author has introduced the software in his local academic community at the 6th Annual Dayton Engineering Science Symposium, 25 October 2010, Dayton, Ohio. SOLVCON is planned to be open-sourced after the presentation of an accepted paper for it at the 49th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, 4-7, January, 2011.