CUDA SPOTLIGHT: MODELING THE WORLD IN REAL TIME
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This week's spotlight is on André R. Brodtkorb. André is a scientist at SINTEF in Norway, where he works on GPU acceleration and algorithm design. Andre's research interests include GPU/heterogeneous computing, simulation of partial differential equations (PDEs) and real-time visualization.
NVIDIA: André, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Since then, I have been working on a lot of different applications of GPUs and parallel processing, including direct visualization and video surveillance. I recently completed my Ph.D. thesis – “Scientific Computing on Heterogeneous Architectures” – in which shallow water simulations played a central part. Shallow water simulations are extremely important in everything from tsunami warnings to simulation of storm surges and dam breaks, where processing speed is a critical factor.
NVIDIA: How does GPU computing currently play a role in your research?
NVIDIA: How did you get interested in shallow water simulation?
In 2010 we were approached by the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering (NCCHE), who wanted to use the GPU to accelerate simulation of real-world events. This was the perfect opportunity to revisit shallow water simulations with the latest CUDA technology. I spent three months at NCCHE as a visiting scholar and together with Martin L. Sætra (University of Oslo) and researchers at NCCHE we developed a full simulator. That included going from the typical proof-of-concept implementation (which hydrologists typically consider to be toy models!) to a thoroughly validated implementation. We did not settle for “it looks right,” but instead verified that we were able to reproduce real-world events.
For shallow water simulations, there is always the trade-off between quality of results and computational time. Take a tsunami simulation in the Indian ocean, for example, which covers roughly 73 million square kilometers. In areas far from the shore, you can get away with using very low resolutions, but along the shore, you would like to have 10-meter resolution or higher to be able to resolve small-scale effects that can be very important. Today, people are using huge CPU clusters to perform such simulations, but are not able to capture all the effects. With faster GPU-based systems, you get the opportunity to run at higher resolutions, and thus get higher-quality results, which can make a huge difference during an emergency.