Parallel Load Balancing Strategies for Ensembles of Stochastic Biochemical Simulations


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Department of Computer Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University


The evolution of biochemical systems where some chemical species are present with only a small number of molecules, is strongly influenced by discrete and stochastic effects that cannot be accurately captured by continuous and deterministic models. The budding yeast cell cycle provides an excellent example of the need to account for stochastic effects in biochemical reactions. To obtain statistics of the cell cycle progression, a stochastic simulation algorithm must be run thousands of times with different initial conditions and parameter values. In order to manage the computational expense involved, the large ensemble of runs needs to be executed in parallel. The CPU time for each individual task is unknown before execution, so a simple strategy of assigning an equal number of tasks per processor can lead to considerable work imbalances and loss of parallel efficiency. Moreover, deterministic analysis approaches are ill suited for assessing the effectiveness of load balancing algorithms in this context. Biological models often require stochastic simulation. Since generating an ensemble of simulation results is computationally intensive, it is important to make efficient use of computer resources. This paper presents a new probabilistic framework to analyze the performance of dynamic load balancing algorithms when applied to large ensembles of stochastic biochemical simulations. Two particular load balancing strategies (point-to-point and all-redistribution) are discussed in detail. Simulation results with a stochastic budding yeast cell cycle model confirm the theoretical analysis. While this work is motivated by cell cycle modeling, the proposed analysis framework is general and can be directly applied to any ensemble simulation of biological systems where many tasks are mapped onto each processor, and where the individual compute times vary considerably among tasks.



Parallel computation