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Debugging High-Performance Computing Applications at Massive Scales

Debugging High-Performance Computing Applications at Massive Scales, illustrative photo

Credit: UNM Research Data Services

Breakthroughs in science and engineering are increasingly made with the help of high-performance computing (HPC) applications. From understanding the process of protein folding to estimating short- and long-term climate patterns, large-scale parallel HPC simulations are the tools of choice. The applications can run detailed numerical simulations that model the real world. Given the great public importance of such scientific advances, the numerical correctness and software reliability of these applications is a major concern for scientists.

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Debugging parallel programs is significantly more difficult than debugging serial programs; human cognitive abilities are overwhelmed when dealing with more than a few concurrent events.12 When debugging a parallel program, programmers must check the state of multiple parallel processes and reason about many different execution paths. The problem is exacerbated at large scale when applications run on top supercomputers with millions of concurrently executing processes. Traditional debugging tools scale poorly with massive parallelism, as they must orchestrate execution of a large number of processes and collect data from them efficiently. The push toward exascale computing has increased the need for scalable debugging techniques.


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