My 2/06/11 Missoulian column
Last week, I covered the Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Center in Butte and some of the outreach it is doing to provide supercomputing time and support to organizations around Montana.
One organization RMSC is working with is Salish Kootenai College, and two faculty members are working on a project that requires supercomputing resources that are available with the RMSC’s supercomputer named Big Sky.
Professor Frank Stomp and colleague Andrew Westerman are working on a project and a paper titled “A New Approach to Automated Algorithm Design.”
Stomp told me that “we have written software in one language that generates a program in another programming language, and the final product we are looking for is an algorithm that will flag faults in the behavior of our code.”
He explained that the new approach is the software itself, because they use it to do a brute-force search for these algorithms. The software generates an algorithm, and then the other software tests each example in turn. There’s no way to know which one might work, so they all have to be tested, one at a time, in an automated way.
It’s like having a key to a door, but not knowing which single lock of hundreds of millions of locks the key will fit. So each one must be tested, one by one. That’s called the brute-force method of testing.
Because the number of the examples they need to run through are so large, they need the power of Big Sky. The parallelism of the supercomputer is important, because that means it can quickly process the hundreds of millions of possibilities.
Stomp told me that “we have a small supercomputer cluster here at SKC, and it is used to test our software in order to get ready to use the supercomputer in Butte.” But the software will still take days to run, even on Big Sky.
And what’s really interesting is that Stomp and Westerman don’t even know if they will find the solution.
“It will be really nice if we are able to find a new algorithm,” Stomp said. “This new approach is the brut- force method, and it’s the only way to test all of the possibilities.”
Read more about the RMSC this month in the Missoulian’s Montana InBusiness Monthly.
And read about the Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Center.
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