HPC Glossary

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A short definition of the typical elements of an HPC cluster.

Batch Scheduler
The software that distributes the compute jobs of the users on the available resources (compute nodes).
Batch Script
A script that contains information in the form of special comments at the beginning of the script which contain information about how many compute resources of what kind are needed.
Batch System
See Batch Scheduler
The physical unit that can independently execute the instructions of a program on a CPU. Modern CPUs generally have multiple cores.
Compute Job
A calculation you want to run on one of the compute nodes and for which you have written a batch script and which will automatically start on one of the compute nodes after submitting the job
Central Processing Unit. It performs the actual computation in a compute node. A modern CPU is composed of numerous cores and layers of cache.
CPU Time
The time that CPUs have spent to calculate something. If 10 CPU cores calculate something for 1 hour each (even if it happens within the same hour), then 10 CPU-hours have been used for this calculation.
Graphics Processing Unit. GPUs in HPC clusters are used as high-performance accelerators and are particularly useful to process workloads in Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) more efficiently. The software has to be explicitly designed to use GPUs. CUDA and OpenACC are the most popular platforms in scientific computing with GPUs.
Short for High Performance Computing
HPC Cluster
Collection of compute nodes with (usually) high bandwidth and low latency communication. They can be accessed via login nodes.
Modern computers can be configured so that one real compute-core appears like two "logical" cores on the system. These two "hyperthreads" can sometimes do computations in parallel, if the calculations use two different sub-units of the compute-core - but most of the time, two calculations on two hyperthreads run on the same physical hardware and both run half as fast as if one thread had a full core. Some programs (e.g. gromacs) can profit from running with twice as many threads on hyperthreads and finish 10-20% faster if run in that way.
See Compute Job
Job System
See Batch Scheduler
A batch system software
Standard for the Message Passing Interface, mainly for distributed memory machines (like HPC Clusters with many compute nodes, each a shared memory system with many cores) scaling from one node to thousands of compute nodes.
Multithreading means that one computer program runs calculations on more than one compute-core using several logical "threads" of serial compute instructions to do so (eg. to work through different and independent data arrays in parallel). Specific types of multithreaded parallelization are OpenMP or MPI.
An individual computer with one or more sockets, part of an HPC cluster.
Specification for Shared Memory parallelization based on Threads for many-core CPUs and GPUs.
Enabling programs to calculate parts of the problem in parallel, reducing overall wallclock time (albeit with some parallelization overhead like runtime environment, communication and synchronization).
Random Access Memory. It is used as the working memory for the cores.
The time a calculation needs to run (see CPU Time and Wall Clock Time).
dividing a problem in several sub-problems creates additional work for taking track of the sub-problems and assembling the pieces to solve the whole problem. At some point this additional work becomes larger than the work spent on calculating the actual problem. A problem is called to "scale well", if little such additional work is needed.
A set of instructions that the computer runs one after another, but that is not compiled into computer-instructions like a program.
Simultaneous Multithreading
See Hyperthreading
See Hyperthreading
A batch system software
Physical socket where the CPU capsules are placed. Often used as a synonym to CPU if a computer has more than one socket and one wants to make clear that only one of the CPU chips sitting in one socket is meant.
Send a compute job into the queue to wait until it can run on a compute node
Logical unit that can be executed independently within a process, sharing resources such as allocated memory, open files and signal handlers.
Wall Clock Time

The term "Wall Clock Time" is used to distinguish it from CPU time (see Runtime).