CYBERSKA

 A Cyberinfrastructure platform to meet the needs of data intensive radio astronomy on route to the SKA

Analysing Astronomy Algorithms for GPUs and Beyond

http://arxiv.org/abs/1007.1660

Astronomy depends on ever increasing computing power. Processor clock-rates have plateaued, and increased performance is now appearing in the form of additional processor cores on a single chip. This poses significant challenges to the astronomy software community. Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), now capable of general-purpose computation, exemplify both the difficult learning-curve and the significant speedups exhibited by massively-parallel hardware architectures. We present a generalised approach to tackling this paradigm shift, based on the analysis of algorithms. We describe a small collection of foundation algorithms relevant to astronomy and explain how they may be used to ease the transition to massively-parallel computing architectures. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach by applying it to four well-known astronomy problems: Hogbom CLEAN, inverse ray-shooting for gravitational lensing, pulsar dedispersion and volume rendering. Algorithms with well-defined memory access patterns and high arithmetic intensity stand to receive the greatest performance boost from massively-parallel architectures, while those that involve a significant amount of decision-making may struggle to take advantage of the available processing power.