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Scientific Programming
Volume 22, Issue 2, Pages 141-155

Assessing the Effects of Data Compression in Simulations Using Physically Motivated Metrics

Daniel Laney,1 Steven Langer,1 Christopher Weber,1 Peter Lindstrom,1 and Al Wegener2

1Lawrence Livermore Lab, Livermore, CA, USA
2Samplify, Campbell, CA, USA

Copyright © 2014 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper examines whether lossy compression can be used effectively in physics simulations as a possible strategy to combat the expected data-movement bottleneck in future high performance computing architectures. We show that, for the codes and simulations we tested, compression levels of 3–5X can be applied without causing significant changes to important physical quantities. Rather than applying signal processing error metrics, we utilize physics-based metrics appropriate for each code to assess the impact of compression. We evaluate three different simulation codes: a Lagrangian shock-hydrodynamics code, an Eulerian higher-order hydrodynamics turbulence modeling code, and an Eulerian coupled laser-plasma interaction code. We compress relevant quantities after each time-step to approximate the effects of tightly coupled compression and study the compression rates to estimate memory and disk-bandwidth reduction. We find that the error characteristics of compression algorithms must be carefully considered in the context of the underlying physics being modeled.