Scalable molecular dynamics with NAMD on the Summit system

B. Acun, D. J. Hardy, Laxmikant V Kale, K. Li, J. C. Phillips, J. E. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


NAnoscale Molecular Dynamics (NAMD) is a parallel molecular dynamics application that has been used to make breakthroughs in understanding the structure and dynamics of large biomolecular complexes, such as viruses like HIV and various types of influenza. State-of-the-art biomolecular simulations often require integration of billions of timesteps, computing all interatomic forces for each femtosecond timestep. Molecular dynamics simulation of large biomolecular systems and long-timescale biological phenomena requires tremendous computing power. NAMD harnesses the power of thousands of heterogeneous processors to meet this demand. In this paper, we present algorithmic improvements and performance optimizations that enable NAMD to achieve high performance on the IBM Newell platform (with IBM POWER9 processors and NVIDIA Volta V100 GPUs), which underpins the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Summit and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Sierra supercomputers. The Top-500 supercomputers November 2018 list shows Summit at the number one spot, with 200 petaflop/s peak performance, and Sierra second with 125 petaflop/s. Optimizations for NAMD on Summit include: data layout changes for GPU acceleration and CPU vectorization, improving GPU offload efficiency, increasing performance with Parallel Active Messaging Interface support in Charm++, improving efficiency of fast Fourier transform calculations, improving load balancing, enabling better CPU vectorization and cache performance, and providing an alternative thermostat through stochastic velocity rescaling. We also present performance scaling results on early Newell systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8585036
JournalIBM Journal of Research and Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)


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