In this paper, we study the potential performance improvements for catastrophe (CAT) modelling systems that can be achieved through parallelisation on a cell processor [Cell Broadband Engine Architecture (Cell/BE)]. We studied and parallelised a critical section of CAT modelling, the so-called inner loop and implemented it on a Cell/BE running on a regular Playstation 3 platform. The Cell/BE is known to be a challenging environment for software development. In particular, the small internal storage available at each synergistic processing element (SPE) of the Cell/BE is a considerable challenge for CAT modelling because the CAT-modelling algorithm requires frequent accesses to large lookup tables. Our parallel solution is a combination of multiple techniques: streaming data to the SPEs and parallelising inner loop computations, building caches on the SPEs to store parts of the large CAT modelling lookup tables, vectorising the computation on the SPEs and double-buffering the file I/O. On a (Playstation 3) Cell/BE with six active SPEs and four-way vectorisation on each SPE, we were able to measure a sustained 16 × speedup for our parallel CAT-modelling code over a wide range of data sizes for real-life Japanese earthquake data.

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Keywords catastrophe modelling, cell processor, parallel algorithms
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Journal International Journal of Parallel, Emergent and Distributed Systems
Dehne, F, Hickey, G. (Glenn), Rau-Chaplin, A. (Andrew), & Byrne, M. (Mark). (2010). Parallel catastrophe modelling on a Cell/BE. International Journal of Parallel, Emergent and Distributed Systems, 25(5), 401–410. doi:10.1080/17445760903492086