GPU-Accelerated Molecular Visualization on Petascale Supercomputing Platforms

March 5th, 2014


Petascale supercomputers create new opportunities for the study of the structure and function of large biomolecular complexes such as viruses and photosynthetic organelles, permitting all-atom molecular dynamics simulations of tens to hundreds of millions of atoms. Together with simulation and analysis, visualization provides researchers with a powerful “computational microscope”. Petascale molecular dynamics simulations produce tens to hundreds of terabytes of data that can be impractical to transfer to remote facilities, making it necessary to perform visualization and analysis tasks in-place on the supercomputer where the data are generated. We describe the adaptation of key visualization features of VMD, a widely used molecular visualization and analysis tool, for GPU-accelerated petascale computers. We discuss early experiences adapting ray tracing algorithms for GPUs, and compare rendering performance for recent petascale molecular simulation test cases on Cray XE6 (CPU-only) and XK7 (GPU-accelerated) compute nodes. Finally, we highlight opportunities for further algorithmic improvements and optimizations.

(John E. Stone, Kirby L. Vandivort, and Klaus Schulten: “GPU-Accelerated Molecular Visualization on Petascale Supercomputing Platforms”. UltraVis’13: Proceedings of the 8th International Workshop on Ultrascale Visualization, pp. 6:1-6:8, 2013. [DOI])

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