From desktop to large-scale Model Exploration with Swift/T

As high-performance computing resources have become increasingly available, new modes of computational processing and experimentation have become possible. This tutorial presents the Extreme-scale Model Exploration with Swift/T (EMEWS) framework for combining existing capabilities for model exploration approaches (e.g., model calibration, metaheuristics, data assimilation) and simulations (or any “black box” application code) with the Swift/T parallel scripting language to run scientific workflows on a variety of computing resources, from desktop to academic clusters to Top 500 level supercomputers. We will present a number of use-cases, starting with a simple agent-based model parameter sweep, and ending with a complex adaptive parameter space exploration workflow coordinating ensembles of distributed simulations. The use-cases are published on a public repository for interested parties to download and run on their own.

Modern simulation-based application studies are campaigns consisting of large numbers of simulations with many possible variations. Simulations may be run with different parameters, possibly as part of an automated model parameter optimization, classification, or, more generally, model exploration (ME). Constructing the software to run such studies at the requisite computational scales is often unnecessarily time-consuming and the resulting software artifacts are typically difficult to generalize and package for other users.

In this tutorial, we present a solution for many of the challenges in running large-scale simulation studies. Our framework, Extreme-scale Model Exploration with Swift/T (EMEWS), uses the general-purpose parallel scripting language Swift (Armstrong et al. 2014) to generate highly concurrent simulation workflows. These workflows enable the integration of external ME algorithms to coordinate the running and evaluation of large numbers of simulations. The general-purpose nature of the programming model allows the user to supplement the workflows with additional analysis and post-processing as well.

Here, we focus on agent-based models (ABMs). Extracting knowledge from ABMs requires the use of approximate, heuristic ME methods involving large simulation ensembles. To improve the current state of the art it has been noted elsewhere that: “. . . there is a clear need to provide software frameworks for metaheuristics that promote software reuse and reduce developmental effort.” (Boussad, Lepagnot, and Siarry 2013) Our design goals are to ease software integration while providing scalability to the largest scale (petascale plus) supercomputers, running millions of ABMs, thousands at a time. Initial scaling studies of EMEWS have shown robust scalability (Ozik, Collier, and Wozniak 2015). The tools are also easy to install and run on an ordinary laptop, requiring only an MPI (Message Passing Interface) implementation, which can be easily obtained from common OS package repositories.

Overview of Extreme-scale Model Exploration with Swift/T (EMEWS) framework

Figure 1: Overview of Extreme-scale Model Exploration with Swift/T (EMEWS) framework.

Figure 1 illustrates the main components of the EMEWS framework. The main user interface is the Swift script, a high-level program. The core novel contributions of EMEWS are shown in green, these allow the Swift script to access a running ME algorithm. This algorithm can be expressed in Python, R, C, C++, Fortran, Julia, Tcl, or any language supported by Swift/T. We provide a high-level queue-like interface with (currently) two implementations: EQ/Py and EQ/R (EMEWS Queues for Python and R). These allow the Swift script to obtain candidate model parameter inputs and return model outputs to the ME. The simulation models are distributed by the Swift/T runtime over a potentially large computer system, but smaller systems that run one model at a time are also supported. The simulations can be implemented as external applications called through the shell, or in-memory libraries accessed directly by Swift (for faster invocation).

EMEWS thus offers the following contributions to the science and practice of simulation ME studies:

  1. it offers the capability to run very large, highly concurrent ensembles of simulations of varying types;
  2. it supports a wide class of model exploration algorithms, including those increasingly available to the community via Python and R libraries;
  3. it offers a software sustainability solution.

In that simulation studies based around EMEWS can easily be compared and distributed.

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