What are toolchains?

A toolchain is a collection of tools to build (HPC) software consistently. It consists of

  • compilers for C/C++ and Fortran,
  • a communications library (MPI), and
  • mathematical libraries (linear algebra, FFT).

Toolchains at the VSC are versioned, and refreshed twice a year. All software available on the cluster is rebuild when a new version of a toolchain is defined to ensure consistency. Version numbers consist of the year of their definition, followed by either a or b, e.g., 2014a. Note that the software components are not necessarily the most recent releases, rather they are selected for stability and reliability.

Available toolchains at the VSC

Two toolchain flavors are standard across the VSC on all machines that can support them:

It may be of interest to note that the Intel C/C++ compilers are more strict with respect to the standards than the GCC C/C++ compilers, while for Fortran, the GCC Fortran compiler tracks the standard more closely, while Intel's Fortran allows for many extensions added during Fortran's long history. When developing code, one should always build with both compiler suites, and eliminate all warnings.

On average, the Intel compiler suite produces executables that are 5 to 10 % faster than those generated using the GCC compiler suite. However, for individual applications the differences may be more significant with sometimes significantly faster code produced by the Intel compilers while on other applications the GNU compiler may produce much faster code.

Additional toolchains may be defined on specialised hardware to extract the maximum performance from that hardware.

  • On Cerebro, the SGI UV shared memory system at the KU Leuven, you need to use the SGI MPI-library (called MPT for Message Passing Toolkit) to get the maximum performance from the interconnect (which offers hardware acceleration for some MPI functions). On that machine, two additional toolchains are defined, intel-mpt and foss-mpt, equivalent to the standard intel and foss toolchains respectively but with the MPI library replaced with MPT.

For detailed documentation on each of these toolchains, we refer to the pages linked above in this document.

Systems