Techniques of design optimisation for algorithms implemented in software
Hopson, Benjamin Thomas Ken
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The overarching objective of this thesis was to develop tools for parallelising, optimising, and implementing algorithms on parallel architectures, in particular General Purpose Graphics Processors (GPGPUs). Two projects were chosen from different application areas in which GPGPUs are used: a defence application involving image compression, and a modelling application in bioinformatics (computational immunology). Each project had its own specific objectives, as well as supporting the overall research goal. The defence / image compression project was carried out in collaboration with the Jet Propulsion Laboratories. The specific questions were: to what extent an algorithm designed for bit-serial for the lossless compression of hyperspectral images on-board unmanned vehicles (UAVs) in hardware could be parallelised, whether GPGPUs could be used to implement that algorithm, and whether a software implementation with or without GPGPU acceleration could match the throughput of a dedicated hardware (FPGA) implementation. The dependencies within the algorithm were analysed, and the algorithm parallelised. The algorithm was implemented in software for GPGPU, and optimised. During the optimisation process, profiling revealed less than optimal device utilisation, but no further optimisations resulted in an improvement in speed. The design had hit a local-maximum of performance. Analysis of the arithmetic intensity and data-flow exposed flaws in the standard optimisation metric of kernel occupancy used for GPU optimisation. Redesigning the implementation with revised criteria (fused kernels, lower occupancy, and greater data locality) led to a new implementation with 10x higher throughput. GPGPUs were shown to be viable for on-board implementation of the CCSDS lossless hyperspectral image compression algorithm, exceeding the performance of the hardware reference implementation, and providing sufficient throughput for the next generation of image sensor as well. The second project was carried out in collaboration with biologists at the University of Arizona and involved modelling a complex biological system – VDJ recombination involved in the formation of T-cell receptors (TCRs). Generation of immune receptors (T cell receptor and antibodies) by VDJ recombination is an enormously complex process, which can theoretically synthesize greater than 1018 variants. Originally thought to be a random process, the underlying mechanisms clearly have a non-random nature that preferentially creates a small subset of immune receptors in many individuals. Understanding this bias is a longstanding problem in the field of immunology. Modelling the process of VDJ recombination to determine the number of ways each immune receptor can be synthesized, previously thought to be untenable, is a key first step in determining how this special population is made. The computational tools developed in this thesis have allowed immunologists for the first time to comprehensively test and invalidate a longstanding theory (convergent recombination) for how this special population is created, while generating the data needed to develop novel hypothesis.