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High Performance Computing at Armagh Observatory

HPC course
Participants of the High Performance Computing courses held at the Armagh Observatory.

Staff and students from institutions throughout the island of Ireland have visited the Armagh Observatory to attend three advanced courses on High Performance Computing (HPC) over the 4-day period 16th to 19th February 2009. The courses, which were organized by Professor Gerry Doyle (Armagh Observatory) and funded by the UK Science and Technology Research Council, were aimed at the Observatory's postgraduate students and postdoctoral research assistants. Participants also included PhD students from Queen's University Belfast and Trinity College Dublin.

The advanced HPC courses were delivered by staff from the Irish Centre for High-End Computing and the National University of Ireland, Galway. The objective was to introduce the students and postdoctoral research assistants to fundamental HPC principles, and to computing techniques that can be used to address problems in a range of subjects. A total of 17 people attended the courses.

The first course, "Introduction to HPC", introduced the basic concepts of parallel computing, outlining the hardware design of modern HPC platforms and the parallel programming models that they support. This course was taught using a variety of methods including lectures, practical exercises, programming examples and informal discussions and tutorials. The practical session covered logging into a super-computer system, code compilation, batch job submission, speed-up measurement and the use of a task-farm, optimization flags, libraries and debuggers.

The second course, "Introduction to the Message Passing Interface (MPI)", provided an overview of the MPI standard with a view to its application to scientific and engineering problems. Throughout the course, the basic concepts behind the message-passing paradigm were discussed together with code examples. Participants took part in practical exercises where they had the opportunity to explore motivational examples in different programming languages, such as C and Fortran.

The third course, "Introduction to OpenMP", was developed specifically for shared-memory parallel processing. The course provided an overview of the OpenMP standard with a view to its application to scientific and engineering problems. Throughout the course, the fundamentals of the OpenMP programming paradigm was presented and discussed. Example codes were utilised to help explain the concepts covered. Participants also had opportunities to explore examples of the use of these principles in C and Fortran.

The object of these courses was to ensure that the Observatory's PhD students and postdoctoral research assistants have the computing skills to make more use of various super-computer facilities, including the Observatory's own HPC cluster. Such skills are in demand not just in astronomy but also throughout the economy in a wide range of computational, engineering and applied science domains beyond pure research.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: Gerry Doyle at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG; Tel.: 028-3752-2928; jgdat signarm.ac.uk.

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Last Revised: 2009 February 19th
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