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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Impacts of the IBM Cell Processor to Support Climate Models

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NASA is interested in the performance and cost benefits for adapting its applications to the IBM Cell processor. However, its 256KB local memory per SPE and the new communication mechanism, make it very challenging to port an application. We selected the solar radiation component of the NASA GEOS-5 climate model, which: (1) is representative of column physics (approximately 50% computational time), (2) has a high computational load relative to transferring data from and to main memory, (3) performs independent calculations across multiple columns. We converted the baseline code (single-precision, Fortran) to C and ported it with manually SIMDizing 4 independent columns and found that a Cell with 8 SPEs can process 2274 columns per second. Compared with the baseline results, the Cell is approximately 5.2X, approximately 8.2X, approximately 15.1X faster than a core on Intel Woodcrest, Dempsey, and Itanium2, respectively. We believe this dramatic performance improvement makes a hybrid cluster with Cell and traditional nodes competitive.

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