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Parallelizing Irregular Applications for Distributed Memory Scalability: Case Studies from Genomics


Generalizable approaches, models, and frameworks for irregular application scalability is an old yet open area in parallel and distributed computing research. Irregular applications are particularly hard to parallelize and distribute because, by definition, the pattern of computation is dependent upon the input data. With the proliferation of data-driven and data-intensive applications from the realm of Big Data, and the increasing demand for and availability of large-scale computing resources through HPC-Cloud convergence, the importance of generalized approaches to achieving irregular application scalability is only growing.

Rather than offering another software language or framework, this dissertation argues we first need to understand application scalability, especially irregular application scalability, and more closely examine patterns of computation, data sharing, and dependencies. As it stands, predominant performance models and tools from parallel and distributed computing focus on applications that are divided into distinct communication and computation phases, and ignore issues related to memory utilization. While time-tested and valuable, these models are not always sufficient for understanding full application scalability, particularly, the scalability of data-intensive irregular applications. We present application case studies from genomics, highlighting the interdependencies of communication, computation, and memory capacities and performance.

The genomics applications we will examine offer a particularly useful and practical vantage point for this analysis, as they are data-intensive irregular application targets for both HPC and cloud computing. Further, they present an extreme for both domains.

For HPC, they are less akin to traditional, well-studied and well-supported scientific simulations and more akin to text and document analysis applications. For cloud computing, they are an extreme in that they require frequent random global access to memory and data, stressing interconnection network latency and bandwidth and co-scheduled processors for tightly orchestrated computation.

We show how common patterns of irregular all-to-all computation can be managed efficiently, comparing bulk-synchronous approaches built on collective communication and asynchronous approaches based on one-sided communication. For the former, our work is based on the popular Message Passing Interface (MPI) and makes heavy use of globally collective communication operations that exchange data across processors in a single step or, to save memory use, in a set of irregular steps. For the latter, we build on the UPC++ programming framework, which provides lightweight RPC mechanisms, to transfer both data and computational work between processors. We present performance results across multiple platforms including several modern HPC systems and, at least in one case, a cloud computing platform.

With these application case studies, we seek not only to contribute to discussions around parallel algorithm and data structure design, programming systems, and performance modeling within the parallel computing community, but also to contribute to broader work in genomics through software development and analysis. Thus, we develop and present the first distributed memory scalable software for analyzing data sets from the latest generation of sequencing technologies, known as long read data sets. Specifically, we present scalable solutions to the problem of many-to-many long read overlap and alignment, the computational bottleneck to long read assembly, error correction, and direct analysis. Through cross-architectural empirical analysis, we identify the key components to efficient scalability, and highlight the priorities for any future optimization with analytical models.

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