Computing Resources and Software Support for the UKQCD Physics Programme

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: College of Science


QCD is the quantum theory of the strong interaction, formulated in terms of elementary entities called quarks and gluons. In a laboratory, however, we only observe composite objects such as protons (qqq) or pi-mesons ( q -- anti-q), collectively known as hadrons. Explaining this dichotomy in a satisfactory way is a major unresolved question in theoretical physics, and indeed commands a prize of 1 million dollars from the Clay Mathematics Institute. In the interim, many important QCD questions can be addressed using a controlled approximation called lattice gauge theory, in which quarks and gluons are formulated only on the discrete points and links of a spacetime lattice. Properties such as the masses and interactions of hadrons, and the nature of the gluonic flux tube which holds quarks together with a force sufficient to lift 3 elephants can then be calculated using a numerical technique called Monte Carlo Importance Sampling. Precise lattice QCD results are now a crucial ingredient in projects which, by comparing theoretical predictions with the results of collider experiments, aim both to determine parameters of the Standard Model of particle physics, and if inconsistencies are found, to open up the exciting prospect of 'new physics'. Unfortunately, the number of lattice points required to make the calculations with the necessary precision is large, as is the computational effort associated with intermediate steps of the calculation once the quarks are assigned realistically small masses. In this proposal we argue that in order to achieve the required accuracy state-of-the-art high performance computing resources are needed; indeed, we cost our bid in units of 'teraflop-years', equivalent to some 3x10^19 individual computer operations. Lattice QCD is truly a Grand Challenge. The projects presented in this bid cover a broad sweep of different physics, ranging from precision calculations of hadrons; the properties of systems including heavy quarks such as 'charm' and 'bottom'; extracting fundamental parameters of the Standard Model of Particle Physics (such as the masses and decay properties of hadrons); the quark-gluon plasma which forms at temperatures in excess of a trillion kelvin; the exotic 'quark matter' thought to exist in the cores of neutron stars (having the mass of the Sun but compact enough to comfortably fit in Swansea Bay!); finally, the properties of QCD-like models in which the numbers of quarks and gluons differs from their real- world values of 3 and 8, offering the tantalising promise of making contact with pencil-and-paper approaches and ultimately the Clay prize....
Description Simulations using High Performance Computers (HPC) are established as the third mode of scientific investigation after experiment and theory and it is inevitable that their impact will grow. HPC systems are best viewed as tightly interconnected collections of individual computers. Therefore, two main factors affect their overall performance: the individual CPU power and the communication throughput between these CPUs. Understanding both aspects is crucial for designing, developing and testing HPC platforms. In order to rank the performance of HPC machines, benchmarking software is used. The unique property of our BSMBench code - the capacity to vary computational and communication aspects simply by adjusting the physical parameters of the theories it simulates - makes it an exemplary alternative benchmark tool. In 2011, Prof. Biagio Lucini realised the important impact that his software would have in the design and appraisal of HPC and therefore began packaging the code into a benchmark tool, BSMBench. He utilised his IBM contacts to initiate a formal collaboration with IBM to implement this work. This project was finalised by the internship of Swansea PhD student, Ed Bennett, in the IBM Research Center in Cambridge (MA) (from 25/6/11 to 17/8/11) formalised under a Joint Study Agreement between Swansea University and IBM. Lucini had overall design lead of the benchmark tool and remains the maintainer of the code. This project resulted in a conference presentation, co-authored by Lucini and Dr Kirk Jordan of IBM Research at the industrial-facing International Supercomputing Conference, ISC12. As a result of this commercial collaboration, BSMBench was released as an open source project in June 2012, and can be downloaded free of charge from The code has been designed to run easily on a variety of systems, from small symmetric multi-processor machines to the most powerful supercomputers and it has been tested on systems from 64 to 8192 cores with no degradation in performance. IBM has been using BSMBench since August 2011 to inform the design of its supercomputers and to promote their cutting-edge BlueGene/Q systems. At the time these were some of the planet's most powerful HPC architectures: they occupy four of the top ten places in the June 2013 world ranking ( The BSMBench product has had significant impact on IBM and, importantly, helped track some errors in their multi-million dollar BlueGene/Q systems. BSMBench is being developed and commercialised by BSMbench Ltd, a start-up company founded in 2012 specifically created to promote, market, and utilise the BSMBench code suite. Lucini was a founder and is Chief Technical Officer and a shareholder. This company has won significant EU convergence funding worth £180k to advance and refine the software. Currently, it is developing general-purpose parallel software based on BSMBench that can be used in HPC applications in sectors such as finance, aerospace engineering, weather forecasting and oil ???extraction. BSMbench has recorded downloads of its software from companies such as Fujitsu, Research in Motion (Blackberry), Jaguar Land Rover, KLM and Microsoft. F Since the summer of 2012, HPC Wales - a £40m national computing centre - has used BSMBench to benchmark and monitor the performance of its systems. In April 2013, BSMBench was used by Fujitsu (a major IT systems company with annual turnover of £1.8bn) to validate and benchmark their computers at HPC Wales's latest Hub prior to its launch. BSMBench has also been used by Transtec, a European HPC company with annual revenues of €45m, to benchmark their latest commercial products. Furthermore, Lucini was asked to perform monitoring of Fujitsu's Sandybridge clusters using BSMBench. The software has attracted the interest of the Open Source community. An article reviewing its features and describing its use in an industrial environment was published in Linux Format, the UK's best selling Linux magazine with a monthly circulation of 24,000, and in issue 124 of the Italian magazine Linux Pro.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Economic