NASA Makes HPFCC Challenge to Speed
Up Its Supercomputer Code
May 5, 2017
Do you, or someone you know, know how
to program computers? NASA has a challenging assignment for you.
NASA’s aeronautical innovators are sponsoring a competition to reward
qualified contenders who can manipulate the agency’s FUN3D design
software so it runs ten to 10,000 times faster on the Pleiades
supercomputer without any decrease in accuracy.
The competition is called the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge
“This is the ultimate ‘geek’ dream assignment,” said Doug Rohn, director
of NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP). “Helping
NASA speed up its software to help advance our aviation research is a
win-win for all.”
NASA’s aviation research is based on what is often described as a
One leg sees initial designs tested with computational fluid dynamics,
or CFD, which relies on a supercomputer for numerical analysis and data
structures to solve and analyze problems.
Another leg involves building scale models to test in wind tunnels and
hopefully confirm previous CFD results.
The third leg takes the research into the air, such as with experimental
aircraft – or X-planes – that can fly with or without pilots, to further
analyze and demonstrate a particular technology’s capability.
“This challenge is specifically targeted to speed up the CFD portion of
our aerospace research,” said Michael Hetle, TACP program executive.
“Some concepts are just so complex, it’s difficult for even the fastest
supercomputers to analyze these models in real time. Achieving a
speed-up in this software by orders of magnitude hones the edge we need
to advance our technology to the next level!”
FUN3D software is written predominately in Modern Fortran. Since the
code is owned by the U.S. government, it has strict export restrictions
requiring all challenge participants to be U.S. citizens over the age of
NASA is looking for qualified people who can download the FUN3D code,
analyze the performance bottlenecks, and identify possible modifications
that might lead to reducing overall computational time.
Examples of modifications would be simplifying a single subroutine so
that it runs a few milliseconds faster. If this subroutine is called
millions of times, this one change could dramatically speed up the
entire program’s runtime.
The HPFCC is supported by two NASA partners – HeroX and TopCoder – and
offers two specific opportunities to compete. A prize purse of up to
$55,000 will be distributed among first and second finishers in two
To take on this
challenge, and you don’t need a supercomputer to do so, just
Code submissions must be received by 5 p.m. EDT, June 29, and
winners will be announced August 9.