SAPPORO: A way to turn your graphics cards into a GRAPE-6

Evghenii Gaburov, Stefan Harfst, Simon P. Zwart
Astronomical Institute “Anton Pannekoek”, University of Amsterdam
New Astronomy, Volume 14, Issue 7, p. 630-637, arXiv:0902.4463v2 [astro-ph.IM] (25 Feb 2009)


   title={SAPPORO: A way to turn your graphics cards into a GRAPE-6},

   author={Gaburov, E. and Harfst, S. and Zwart, S.P.},

   journal={New Astronomy},








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We present Sapporo, a library for performing high-precision gravitational N-body simulations on NVIDIA Graphical Processing Units (GPUs). Our library mimics the GRAPE-6 library, and N-body codes currently running on GRAPE-6 can switch to Sapporo by a simple relinking of the library. The precision of our library is comparable to that of GRAPE-6, even though internally the GPU hardware is limited to single precision arithmetics. This limitation is effectively overcome by emulating double precision for calculating the distance between particles. The performance loss of this operation is small (< 20%) compared to the advantage of being able to run at high precision. We tested the library using several GRAPE-6-enabled N-body codes, in particular with Starlab and phiGRAPE. We measured peak performance of 800 Gflop/s for running with 10^6 particles on a PC with four commercial G92 architecture GPUs (two GeForce 9800GX2). As a production test, we simulated a 32k Plummer model with equal mass stars well beyond core collapse. The simulation took 41 days, during which the mean performance was 113 Gflop/s. The GPU did not show any problems from running in a production environment for such an extended period of time.
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