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Expressive and scalable finite element simulation beyond 1000 cores



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Richardson, Chris J. 
Wells, Garth N. 


The FEniCS Project is a widely used, open-source problem solving environment for partial differential equations that allows users to specify equations in mathematical symbolic form via a domain-specific language, and solve them using the finite element method. The FEniCS Problem solving environment provides C++ and Python interfaces, and relies on automated code generation to reconcile expressive input with high performance. Because of the generic nature of the software, many different scientific problems are being addressed using FEniCS/DOLFIN, including geodynamics, heat flow, elasticity, electromagnetics, flow in porous media, Navier--Stokes equations and acoustics.

The key aims of this project were to enhance the applicability and usability of DOLFIN, the core finite element library in the FEniCS Project, on parallel architectures. DOLFIN already supported fully distributed computation via MPI, but lacked some important infrastructure for enabling large scale parallel computation. This included a lack of (i) scalable parallel I/O and (ii) parallel mesh refinement. In addition, (iii) DOLFIN did not support threaded operations in combination with MPI. Implementation of the three aforementioned points formed the objectives of this project. All three objectives have been realised and exceeded, and the computer code developed is publicly available. Outcomes of this project are either already in a release of DOLFIN or are in development repositories and will be included in the next release, and are already being used in a number of research projects, including projects supported by UK research councils.


Parallel computing, finite element method, FEniCS Project, parallel IO

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HECToR: UK National Supercomputing Service

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This project was funded under the HECToR Distributed Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) Service operated by NAG Ltd. HECToR - A Research Councils UK High End Computing Service - is the UK's national supercomputing service, managed by EPSRC on behalf of the participating Research Councils. Its mission is to support capability science and engineering in UK academia. The HECToR supercomputers are managed by UoE HPCx Ltd and the CSE Support Service is provided by NAG Ltd.