7.1. What is a subset?

VisIt has first-class support for four different kinds of subsets; Domains, Groups (also called Blocks), Materials and material Species. In particular, as currently designed, any given mesh in VisIt can have only one decomposition into each of these kinds of subsets. That is, a mesh can have only one Domain decomposition, one Group decomposition, one Material decomposition and one material Species decomposition. A fifth kind of subset, Enumerated, is also supported and provides some additional generality but cannot be used in combination with the other four or even with other Enumerated subsets.

Data producers as well as the database plugins that read data into VisIt often have flexibility in deciding how to utilize these various kinds of subsets in representing their data. We describe each of these kinds of subsets and constraints in their use below.

7.1.1. Domain Subsets

VisIt’s concept of a Domain subset is fundamental to its parallel programming and execution model. A domain in VisIt represents a chunk of mesh plus its variables that is both stored (in files and in memory) and processed coherently as a single, self-contained unit. Large meshes in VisIt are typically decomposed into Domain subsets for parallel processing. In fact, except in rare cases, the maximum number of MPI tasks VisIt may use is determined by the number of Domain subsets created by the data producer. VisIt’s approach to processing a mesh in parallel is often described as piggy-backing off of the parallel decomposition created by the data producer.

Domain subsets also represent the unit of work VisIt allocates in its load balancing algorithms. If VisIt is running on M processors and reading a mesh of N domains, then if N<M, N-M processors will idle for operations involving that mesh. On the other hand, if N>kM (k an integer), some processors will be assigned k domains and some k+1 domains.

In almost all cases, if a mesh is to be processed in parallel by VisIt, it must have been decomposed into Domain subsets by the data producer prior to reading the data into VisIt. In general, VisIt does not perform any on-the-fly domain decomposition of data it is reading. However, there is one, special case where VisIt can perform on-the-fly domain decomposition of a large, monolithic mesh; a structured mesh stored in a file format that supports hyper-slabbed I/O. In this simple case, VisIt will try to evenly decompose the 2 or 3D mesh into roughly equal sized hyper-slabs whose number is determined by the number of parallel tasks. VisIt will also then utilize the file format’s hyper-slab I/O routines to read into each parallel task only the part(s) of the mesh assigned to that task.

A mesh is required to have domains if it is ever to be processed in parallel by VisIt.

7.1.2. Group or Block Subsets

Groups (or Blocks) are just unions of Domains. They are optional. A mesh is not required to have groups. On the other hand, if a mesh has Groups, then every domain in the mesh must be assigned to one and only one Group subset. Groups may be used to represent, for example, the files in which multiple domains are stored or sets of neighboring domains that share a common logical/structured indexing arrangement in an otherwise globally unstructured mesh.

The key constraint about group subsets is that they can represent only unions of the domain subsets. Internally in VisIt, a group subset is implemented as a list of domain subset ids.

7.1.3. Material Subsets

Material subsets are used to represent the decomposition of a mesh into various materials. For example, a mesh may be composed of steel, brass, and aluminum materials. If these materials are given integer ids 83 (int('S')), 66 (int('B')) and 65 (int('A')), then each zone (or cell) in the mesh can be assigned a value of 83, 66 or 65 to indicate the zone is composed of steel, brass or aluminum. This would be equivalent to an integer valued (with 3 unique values), zone-centered variable on the mesh.

For material subsets, however, VisIt also supports a notion of mixing where a single zone (or cell) can be composed of multiple materials each occupying some fractional volume of a whole zone (or cell). From a sub-setting perspective, a more formal way of thinking about mixing is that it is way of supporting partial inclusion of a mesh zone (or cell) within a given material subset.

Material subsets are optional. Furthermore, if material subsets are defined additionally supporting mixing is also optional. Only some data producers that involve Material subsets also involve mixing.

When mixing materials are involved, VisIt can employ a variety of sophisticated Material Interface Reconstruction (MIR) algorithms to draw the interfaces between materials based on the volume fractions of the mixing. The main point about MIR is that it represents an additional computational burden when manipulating Material subsets. Manipulating Group or Domain subsets has no such equivalent computational cost. Mesh Variables with Material Specific Properties

For some mesh variables, data producers may have different values of the variable for each of the materials within various zones (or cells) of the mesh where mixing is occurring. When such a variable is being plotted, for example with the Pseudocolor Plot, what value/color should VisIt show for such zones? The fact is, depending on the user’s needs, VisIt is capable of showing either an overall value for the zone or showing the material-specific values in the zone. This can be handled through appropriate use of VisIt’s (MIR) algorithms and Subset Window controls.

7.1.4. Species Subsets

In addition to mixing, another feature Materials subsets support is a notion of Species. For example, there are many different varieties of brass and steel depending on the alloys used. Neither brass nor steel are themselves pure elements on the periodic table. They are instead alloys of other pure metals. Common Yellow Brass is, nominally, a mixture of Copper (Cu) and Zinc (Zn) while Tool Steel is composed primarily of Iron (Fe) but mixed with some Carbon (C) and a variety of other elements.

Lets suppose we are dealing with the following alloys and species compositions…

Material Species composition
Brass Cu:65%, Zn:35%
T-1 Steel Fe:76.3%, W:18%, Cr:4.0%, C:0.7%, V:1%
O-1 Steel Fe:96.2%, W:0.5%, Cr:0.5%, C:0.9%, Mn:1.4%, Ni:0.5%

The Materials decomposition would consist of 3 subsets for Brass, T-1 Steel and O-1 Steel. For the Species decomposition, Brass would be further decomposed into 2 Species subsets, T-1 Steel into 5 Species subsets and O-1 Steel, 6 Species subsets.

Alternatively, one could opt to characterize both T-1 Steel and O-1 Steel has a single, non-specific Steel having 7 Species subsets, Fe, W, Cr, C, V, Mn, Ni where for T-1 Steel, the Mn and Ni Species subsets are always empty and for O-1 Steel the V Species subset is always empty. In that case, there would only be 2 Materials subsets for Brass and non-specific Steel.

Species subsets are optional. A mesh does not need to have them defined. However, as currently designed, a data producer cannot define Species subsets without also defining Materials subsets (even if there is only one material subset for the whole mesh).

A final thing to note about Species subsets is that they do not represent spatially distinct parts of the mesh like Domains, Groups, or Materials. Instead, Species, if they are defined are ever present, everywhere in the mesh. Only their relative concentrations vary at any given point in the mesh. But, Species do permit subsetting a particular physical quantity’s value in that, for example the total pressure in a zone can be decomposed into partial pressures on each of the species comprising the materials in the zone. Furthermore, using the Subset Window, VisIt can then control which partial value(s) are used in a particular plot.

7.1.5. Domains, Groups, Materials and Species In Combination

A given mesh may involve any combination of Domain, Group and Material subsets. Furthermore, VisIt’s Subset Window makes it possible to manipulate these four kinds of subset in combination. That is, a user can simultaneously control which domains, which materials and which groups VisIt should process in any given operation. However, manipulating subsets in combination works only for these kinds of subsets. Other kinds of sub-setting, such as Enumerated subsets which are discussed next, are not as well integrated.

7.1.6. Enumerated Subsets

A key constraint of the other kinds of subsets is that any given mesh can have only one decomposition into domains and one decomposition into groups and one decomposition into materials. However, a mesh can be composed of any number of Enumerated subsets. Enumerated subsets are defined by first defining the enumeration class and then creating a bitmap like variable over the mesh to indicate which mesh entities (nodes, edges, faces or volumes) belong to which subsets of the enumeration class.

Within an enumeration class, the sets can be arranged hierarchically so that some sets contain other sets as in a part assembly.

Enumerated subsets do not work in combination with domains, groups or materials or in combination with other classes of Enumerated subsets. On the other hand, for any given mesh, there can be any number of enumeration classes, each defining a collection of related subsets. For example, if a mesh has defined two enumeration classes, one for node sets and one for face sets, then different subsets of nodes can be manipulated simultaneously or different subsets of faces can be manipulated simultaneously but different sets of nodes cannot simultaneously be manipulated in combination with different sets of faces. Finally, manipulating enumerated subsets can also incur small a computational burden due to the work involved in finding the mesh entities within a given subset.