THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SPARSE MATRIX COLLECTION*
TIMOTHY A. DAVISt
Abstract. The University of Florida Sparse Matrix Collection is a large, widely available, and ac-
tively growing set of sparse matrices that arise in real applications. Its matrices cover a wide spectrum
of problem domains, both those arising from problems with underlying 2D or 3D geometry (struc-
tural engineering, computational fluid dynamics, model reduction, electromagnetics, semiconductor
devices, thermodynamics, materials, acoustics, computer graphics/vision, robotics/kinematics, and
other discretizations) and those that typically do not have such geometry (optimization, circuit sim-
ulation, networks and graphs, economic and financial modeling, theoretical and quantum chemistry,
chemical process simulation, mathematics and statistics, and power networks). The collection meets
a vital need that artificially-generated matrices cannot meet, and is widely used by the sparse matrix
algorithms community for the development and performance evaluation of sparse matrix algorithms.
The collection includes software for accessing and managing the collection, from MATLAB, Fortran,
Key words. sparse matrices, performance evaluation and testing of sparse matrix algorithms.
AMS subject classifications. 65F50, 65-04.
1. Introduction. Wilkinson defined a sparse matrix as any matrix with enough
zeros that it pays to take advantage of them . Wilkinson seems to have never
published this definition in writing. According to Bunch , Wilkinson stated this
definition as early as 1969. This author has not found any printed versions of this
definition earlier than those of Duff  and Reid , who do not cite Wilkinson
and elaborate more fully on the definition. It may have arisen independently. What
is certain is that by the early 1970's, it was the common understanding in the sparse
matrix community that defining a sparse matrix as a matrix with some fraction of
nonzero entries was inappropriate. Instead, it was recognized very early that sparsity
is an economic issue; if you can save time and memory by exploiting the zeros, then
the matrix is sparse.
Here, the University of Florida Sparse Matrix Collection is described. Section 2
gives the motivation for collecting sparse matrices from real applications and mak-
ing them widely available. Section 3 describes the current state of the collection:
where the matrices come from, how they are stored, and what additional auxiliary
information is available. In Section 4, a suite of widely-available software packages is
described for accessing and managing the collection (including software that generates
matrix statistics and web pages). Examples from the many uses of the collection in
previous literature, plus one new one, are given in Section 5. Section 6 concludes with
instructions on how to submit new matrices to the collection.
2. Purpose of the collection. The role of sparse matrices from real appli-
cations in the development, testing, and performance evaluation of sparse matrix
algorithms has long been recognized. The first established collection was started by
Curtis and Reid (1970 and following), extended by Duff and Reid (1979, ), and
then compiled into the Harwell-Boeing collection by Duff, Grimes, and Lewis (1989,
). This collection provides the starting point of University of Florida Sparse Ma-
trix Collection. Since then, additional matrices have been added over the years, and
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under grants 9111263, 9223088,
9504974, 9803599, 0203720, and 0620286.
tDepartment of Computer and Information Science and Engineering, University of Florida
other collections have been made, many of which have also been incorporated into the
UF Collection (such as [7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 40, 44, 54, 55, 58, 63, 64, 65, 67, 69]).
To ensure ease of access and allow for repeatable experimental design, the matrices
in the collection are indexed and stored in a uniform manner, and software is available
for reading the matrices, creating the matrices, and managing the collection. A simple
download mechanism is provided so that a single MATLAB statement can download
a matrix and load it directly into the MATLAB workspace.
2.1. Random matrices. Maintaining a sparse matrix collection is not a trivial
task, nor is it trivial to download an 8GB data set (the size of the collection as of 2007
in just one of its three available data formats). It is much simpler to generate random
matrices on the fly, and to use those for the testing and performance evaluation of
sparse matrix algorithms. The results obtained could even be repeatable, with the
creation of software that generates a repeatable and parameterized sequence of random
While simple, this approach is unsuitable. Random matrices (or more precisely
pseudorandom matrices) have several characteristics that limit their use for testing
and performance evaluation .
Under modest assumptions, random n-by-n matrices with O(n) nonzero entries
require O(n3) time and O(n2) memory to factorize, because of catastrophic fill-in U- ]
In other words, depending on the constants in the big-O notation, it is better to use a
dense matrix algorithm to factorize a random sparse matrix. Random sparse matrices
are not sparse, according to Wilkinson's definition. Even if sparse matrix techniques
are useful, this catastrophic fill-in will tend to introduce a bias in the performance
evaluation of different sparse matrix methods, towards those that can exploit factors
with very large and very dense lower right submatrices. A sparse matrix algorithm
should ideally operate in time proportional to the number of floating-point operations
(a goal that seems deceptively easy but is actually hard to accomplish). If a poorly
written sparse matrix algorithm included an O(n2) time component, even with a small
constant, this poor behavior would be masked if only random sparse matrices were to
be used for performance comparisons with well-written algorithms.
No sparse matrix from real applications exhibits this catastrophic-fill-in charac-
teristic. All sparse matrices arising in real applications have some kind of structure
in their nonzero pattern which can be profitably exploited by fill-reducing orderings.
Although sparse matrices from different applications I.. I, differently from each
other (in terms of amount of fill-in from different orderings, and relative performance
of different factorization methods, for example), none of them behave anything like
random sparse matrices.
Random dense matrices are nonsingular (with very high probability) and tend to
be very well conditioned . The structural rank of a sparse matrix is the maximum
number of nonzero entries that can be permuted to the diagonal (sprank(A) in MAT-
LAB), or equivalently, the size of a maximum matching of the bipartite graph of the
matrix. It is an upper bound on the numerical rank. In perfect arithmetic, for every
fixed sparsity pattern S, the numerical rank and structural rank of a random sparse
matrix with pattern S are equal, with probability one .1 Random sparse matrices
also have very poor graph separators when partitioned for parallel computing (which
affects both direct and iterative parallel methods).
1See also , which has most of the theorems needed to show this.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SPARSE MATRIX COLLECTION
Catastrophic fill-in in direct methods, and the well-conditioned property of ran-
dom sparse matrices, introduces an artificial bias towards iterative methods.
Although random matrices are completely meaningless when comparing the per-
formance of two sparse matrix algorithms, they do find some use in the testing of
sparse matrix codes since they are so simple to generate on the fly. However, even
this use has limitations. Backslash (x=A\b) in MATLAB, for example, must detect
both structural and numerical rank deficiency. Many matrices arising in practice have
structural and numerical ranks that differ. Code that considers this case cannot be
tested with random sparse matrices. The numerical accuracy of pivoting strategies
also cannot be reliably tested with random matrices .
2.2. Sparse matrices from real applications. Since random matrices are
unsuitable, there is a need for a collection of matrices from real applications. The ideal
test suite would be somehow representative of matrices that arise in practice. It should
cast a broad net, so as to capture matrices from every application domain that relies on
sparse matrix methods. For example, matrices arising in circuit simulation (and other
network-related problems) differ greatly from matrices arising from the discretization
of 2D and 3D physical domains. Computational fluid dynamics matrices differ from
structural engineering matrices, and both are vastly different from matrices arising in
linear programming or financial portfolio optimization. The collection should be kept
up to date, since matrices of interest grow in size each year as computer memories get
larger. New application domains also appear, such as eigenvalue problems arising in
web connectivity matrices [49, 60] which have existed only since the mid 1990's.
Sparse matrix algorithm developers use these matrices to develop their methods,
since theoretical asymptotic time/memory complexity analysis only goes so far. If
there are no matrices available to developers from a given application domain, it is
quite possible that when their methods are used in that domain, the performance
results will be disappointing. This provides a strong motivation for computational
scientists to submit their matrices to a widely available collection.
There are two strategies for constructing such a collection; any collection will tend
to be driven by a combination of the two strategies. The first is the ii.ip" ( .-'
strategy, which seeks the unusual or interesting matrices, and perhaps a few I p.. i"
matrices from each application area. Duplicate matrices (those with characteristics
similar to matrices already in the collection) would be avoided.
The second strategy is a "statistical II.lI,1 O of the domains that generate
sparse matrix problems. In this strategy, narrow application areas such as DNA
electrophoresis would have few matrices in a collection, while broad and widely used
applications (finite element methods for 2D and 3D physical domains, for example)
would have many matrices in a collection. In this strategy, duplicates (although not
exact duplicates) would be welcome. The UF Collection was constructed along this
second strategy, with some '.'1pl" ( '- matrices added as well. Matrices from
submitters are never turned away for being near duplicates of matrices already in
the collection. Some problem sets that are too small have been declined, although an
application area with a range of matrix sizes from very tiny to very large is very useful.
The smaller matrices are well suited for testing, and the larger ones for performance
Both strategies introduce a source of bias. For example, whenever this author is
queried by an end-user about his software (direct methods for solving sparse linear
systems, not iterative methods), a request is made for one or more matrices for in-
clusion in the collection. Thus, application areas that are more suitable for iterative
methods may be under-represented in the collection.
One method used to avoid this bias is to rely on matrices collected by others. The
UF Collection includes many sets of matrices in this form, such as those collected by
Saad, who works on iterative methods for sparse linear systems . In addition,
not all matrices in the collection describe a sparse linear system. For example, many
linear programming problems appear in widely available collections in MPS format
[40, 55, 58, 63]; they have been converted into a standard matrix format (minimize
c'x subject to Ax b and 1 < x < u) and included in the UF collection.
2.3. Matrix generators. A matrix generator is a software package that gen-
erates matrices typical of what might arise in a real application, in any desired size.
These are particularly useful for parallel sparse matrix algorithms, where the prob-
lem size should scale with the number of processors when scaled speedup is being
measured. The Matrix Market includes several matrix generators, including the LA-
PACK test matrix generators , the NEP matrix generators [7, 8], and Higham's
Matrix Computational Toolbox  (part of which appears as the gallery function
However, there are no matrix generators in the UF Collection in its current form,
for two reasons. The existing generators such as the ones described above are well-
written, easy to understand, and easy to maintain. However, they generate matrices
with very regular nonzero patterns. Matrices that arise in real applications tend
to have a more complex structure. They require complete applications to generate
them, but these software packages are dauntingly large and would be impossible for
this author to maintain.
3. Description of the collection. As of January, 2007, the UF Sparse Matrix
Collection consists of 1840 problem sets, each of which contains at least one sparse
matrix (typically just one). The structure of a problem set is described in detail in
Section 3.2. Most frequently, it represents a sparse linear system of the form Ax = b,
where b is often provided as well as the sparse matrix A. In some cases, a problem
set consists of a sequence of closely related matrices. Some problem sets represent a
problem with two sparse matrices, such as a stiffness matrix and a mass matrix from a
structural engineering eigenvalue problem, for example. In this case, A is the stiffness
matrix, and the mass matrix appears as an auxiliary matrix in the problem set.
Counting all of the matrices in these sequences, and all sparse auxiliary matrices (such
as mass matrices, but excluding sparse vectors), the collection includes 2425 matrices.
The web site for the collection is http://www.cise.ufl.edu/research/sparse/matrices.
It is important that a collection include a large number of matrices. For example,
an experiment was recently performed on a variant of the diagonal Markowitz ordering
scheme , using the UMFPACK data structure for representing the active submatrix
[20, 22, 23]. Unlike the quotient graph used in the minimum degree ordering algorithm,
the size of the data structure is not guaranteed to be limited by the size of the initial
structure of the matrix being ordered. However, only a single matrix in the collection
triggered the case where the size of the data structure during elimination exceeded the
initial size (by :'.). This particular matrix was not added to the collection because it
exhibited this property; it was already in the collection. This result also explains why
the UMFPACK data structure requires so little integer memory space in practice.
3.1. Application areas. The UF collection is divided into 99 different matrix
groups, with more groups added as new matrices are submitted to the collection. A
complete list of these groups is too long to include here; details are given on the
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SPARSE MATRIX COLLECTION
Partial list of problem sources
Non-Hermitian Eigenvalue Problems
Multistage stochastic financial modeling
The Matrix Market
Univ. of Utrecht circuit simulation matrices
Frequency domain, nonlinear analog circuits
NETLIB Linear Programming Test Problems
Symmetric sparse matrix benchmarks
Linear programming problems
Stanford/ I I. 1. Web Matrices
Xyce circuit simulation matrices
Computer vision problems
Linear programming test set
2D and 3D semiconductor physics
Linear programming test set
QAPLIB, quadratic assignment problems
Oberwolfach Model Reduction Benchmarks
SPARSKIT matrix collection
Univ. of Basel Collection
DNA electrophoresis matrices
Chemical engineering problems
Bai et al. [7, 8]
Batagelj and Mrvar 
Berger et al. 
Boisvert et al. [12, 13]
Bomhof and van der Vorst 
Duff, Grimes, and Lewis [31, 32]
Feldmann et al. 
Gould, Hu, and Scott 
Miller and Wang 
Rudnyi et al. [64, 65]
M. Bydder, UCSD; see 
van Heukelum et al. 
Zitney [73, 74]
collection's web site. Each group consists of either a set of matrices from the same
application and source, or a set of matrices from another sparse matrix collection.
In the latter case, the group may consist of matrices from very different application
areas (for example, the Harwell-Boeing collection forms a single group).
Sources (papers and web sites) for some of the matrix groups are listed in Ta-
ble 3.1. The UF Collection includes many more matrices submitted to the collection
from their authors which do not include a citable paper or web site. This list gives a
flavor of the range of problems the collection contains.
A complete list of the problem domains for all 1840 matrices is given in Table
3.2. The table is split into three categories: problems with no underlying geometry,
problems with 2D or 3D geometry, and counter-examples for which the geometry is
unclear (at least 3 of them certainly have no 2D/3D geometry).
3.2. Matrix problem characteristics. Each problem set contains the follow-
name: the problem group and name, such as HB/bcsstkl3 for the bcsstkl3
matrix in the Harwell-Boeing group.
title: a short, one-line, descriptive title.
A: an m-by-n sparse matrix; binary, integer, real, or complex.
id: an integer in the range 1 to the number of problems in the collection.
Once a problem is assigned a serial number, it is never changed.
date: the year the matrix was created, or added to the collection (or another
collection, such as the Harwell-Boeing collection) if the creation date is un-
known. This has been left blank for 42 matrices in the NETLIB LP set ,
since it is unclear from the documentation when they were created or added
to that collection.
1140 problems with no 2D/3D geometry
342 linear programming
252 circuit simulation
126 optimization (excluding linear programming problems)
110 graph problems (excluding random graphs)
70 chemical process simulation
68 random graphs
67 economic/financial modeling
61 theoretical/quantum chemistry
22 least squares, statistics, mathematics
22 power networks
692 problems with 2D/3D geometry
271 structural engineering
159 computational fluid dynamics
84 other (various ODE's, PDE's, etc.)
38 model reduction
34 semiconductor devices
25 thermal problems
7 computer graphics/vision
3 robotics, kinematics
author: the name or names of the originator(s) of the matrix. This is left
blank if unknown (200 matrices).
ed: the name or names of the editors) or collectors) of the matrix, who first
included it in a widely available collection.
kind: a one-line string describing the type of the problem, selected from a
well-defined set and thus suitable for parsing by a program. Table 3.2 is a
slightly condensed version of the list of possible values of this item. This field
is always non-empty.
The following items are optionally present:
Zeros: a binary matrix whose pattern gives the explicit zero entries provided
by the matrix author. MATLAB drops these entries from any sparse matrix,
and thus they are stored separately in that data format. In the Rutherford-
Boeing and Matrix Market format, these entries are stored with A itself.
b: the right-hand side of the linear system Ax = b; may be any size, sparse
or dense, and real or complex.
x: the supposed solution of the linear system Ax = b; may be any size, sparse
or dense, and real or complex.
notes: notes about the problem, as one or more lines of text.
aux: an auxiliary structure, containing arbitrary problem dependent informa-
tion. Each item in aux must be a matrix or a sequence of matrices (stored as
a cell array in MATLAB). The matrices in aux can be of any type (real, com-
plex, or character, and either full or sparse). Typical contents include cost
vectors and bounds for linear programming problems, node names for net-
work problems (such as URL's), additional matrices for model reduction and
eigenvalue problems (mass matrices, for example), and 2D or 3D coordinates
of the nodes of the graph of A.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SPARSE MATRIX COLLECTION
Each problem set is held in three different formats, all of which contain the same
information. In the MATLAB format, the problem set is a single MATLAB variable,
stored as a struct and held in a single MAT-file. A problem can be downloaded
directly into MATLAB with either of the statements
Problem = UFget (35)
Problem = UFget ('HB/bcsstkl3')
where the problem HB/bcsstkl3 has a serial number of 35. The printed MATLAB
output of these statements is given below.
title: 'SYMMETRIC STIFFNESS MATRIX, FLUID FLOW GENERALIZED EIGENVALUES'
A: [2003x2003 double]
author: 'J. Lewis'
ed: 'I. Duff, R. Grimes, J. Lewis'
kind: 'computational fluid dynamics problem'
Once a problem MAT-file is downloaded, UFget caches it on the user's local system, so
that any one matrix need only be downloaded once. A future version of Mathematica
will include an interface to the collection .
The UFget (35) usage facilitates the creation of specialized subsets of the col-
lection for the design of experiments, as lists of matrix id's. An index is provided
that contains statistics about each matrix, such as dimensions, number of nonzeros,
symmetry, positive definiteness, structural rank, and results from three fill reducing
orderings: minimum degree (AMD  or COLAMD ), nested dissection ( I llk. 1 IS
), and a Dulmage-Mendelsohn permutation [30, 37, 61] followed by a best-effort
ordering of each diagonal block. For example, suppose we wish to test all structurally
non-singular square matrices, in order of problem size as determined by the number of
nonzeros in the factors as found by AMD. In MATLAB, this is done with the following
simple code, which downloads the matrices as needed.
index = UFget ;
list= find (index.nrows == index.ncols & index.sprank == index.nrows) ;
[ignore i] = sort (index.amd_lnz (list))
list = list (i) ;
for k = list
Problem = UFget (k)
A = Problem.A ;
% ... run an experiment on the matrix A
As another example, the complete experiment to determine the AMD ordering
times in Section 5 required about 80 lines of MATLAB, including plotting of the
Each problem is also stored in the Rutherford-Boeing format [31, 33] and in the
Matrix Market format [12, 13]. In both formats, each problem set is stored as one or
more files in a single directory, including all meta-data about each problem set (all
the items listed above in the MATLAB problem struct).
The Rutherford-Boeing format is a successor to the Harwell-Boeing format [31,
32]. It stores a sparse matrix in compressed column form. Unlike the Harwell-Boeing
format, files in the Rutherford-Boeing format can be read using any programming
language, not just Fortran. The Matrix Market format stores a matrix in triplet
format (also called the coordinate format), where each line of the file includes the row
08 a 00
8, 0 C O i
0 0 0OU6810 8
0 08 OP 00
go 0 0o O
1975 1980 1985 1990 1995
year matrix was created
FIG. 3.1. Matrix size, broken down by year matrix was created
RoO 1 0I ~8~88I
00 08 0 b
8 0000 0 o
0 0 C) 0g383
0Qo o oo
1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995
year matrix was created
FIG. 3.2. Matrix factor size, broken down by year matrix was created
index, column index, and numerical value of a single entry.
3.3. Matrix statistics. The matrices in the collection come from 239 different
authors and 49 different editors/collectors. The dates the matrices were created range
from 1970 to 2006, with new matrices added each year (except for 1972, 1976, 1977,
and 1987). Figures 3.1 and 3.2 plot the number of nonzeros in each matrix and the
number of nonzeros in the factors (the Cholesky factor L of P(A + AT)pT with AMD
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SPARSE MATRIX COLLECTION
if square, or the Householder-vector representation of the QR factorization of AP or
ATP with COLAMD otherwise2), respectively, as a function of the year the matrix
was created. These plots show an exponential growth in problem sizes, similar to how
computer memory sizes have grown since 1970. Note that small problems are still
being actively added to the collection. This is because a matrix group often includes
a range of related problems, from small test cases to the largest problems of interest.3
4. Software for accessing and managing the collection. All of the software
for managing the collection appears in various component packages of the SuiteSparse
meta-package, available at http://www.cise.ufl.edu/research/sparse.
The primary MATLAB interface to the collection is the UFget toolbox, which
has already been described above. The UFcollection package is a MATLAB toolbox
used to create and update the MATLAB index for the collection, to create the web
pages, and to export the collection to the Matrix Market and Rutherford-Boeing
formats. To accomplish these tasks, it relies on the UFget, CHOLMOD [18, 25],
CSparse , and RBio packages. CHOLMOD is a sparse Cholesky factorization
and update/downdate package. It includes software, in C, for reading and writing
matrices in the Matrix Market format. These functions also include a MATLAB
interface. RBio is a MATLAB toolbox written in Fortran for reading a writing sparse
matrices in the Rutherford-Boeing format. The toolbox can also read all matrices
in the original Harwell-Boeing format. CSparse is a software package developed in
conjunction with the book Direct Methods for Sparse Linear Systems . It is used
here for creating pictures of the matrices for posting on the collection's web site, and
for computing various matrix statistics.
Additional software for reading and writing Rutherford-Boeing matrices can be
obtained at http://www.cerfacs.fr/algor/Softs/RB. Software for reading and writing
Matrix Market files can be obtained at http://www.nist.gov/MatrixMarket.
5. Example uses of the collection. A collection such as the one described here
can answer many questions about the design, analysis, and performance of sparse
matrix algorithms that cannot be answered by theoretical analyses or artificially-
generated matrices. Matrices obtained from (or available in) this collection have
been used in a wide range of published experimental results. For a small sample, see
[3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 27, 34, 35, 46, 70]. Google Scholar, as of January 2007, lists 115 papers
that cite the collection explicitly, as it appeared in an NA Digest note in 1997 .
Essentially all research articles that include a section on the performance analysis
of a sparse matrix algorithm include results on matrices from real applications, many
of them matrices in the UF Collection. Articles that do not use these standard
benchmarks typically use matrices that could arise in practice, such as the 5-point
discrete Laplacian on a regular mesh (, for example).
Two examples of the kinds of questions a set of real matrices can answer are
given here: the average-case time complexity of the minimum degree ordering al-
gorithm, and the tradeoff between supernodal and non-supernodal sparse Cholesky
factorization methods .
2The matrix A or AT is used, whichever is tall and thin. Note that this overestimates the size
of a linear programming problem, since those problems do not require a QR factorization.
3The outlier matrix in 1971 is from the Edinburgh Associative Thesaurus, www.eat.rl.ac.uk,
obtained from the Pajek data set . It is a graph with 23,219 nodes and 325,592 edges that was
first constructed in 1971 .
Problems with 2D/3D geometry Problems with no 2D/3D geometry
10 1 10 261
102 104 106 10 1010 1012 102 104 106 10 1010 1012
FIG. 5.1. AMD run time over IL|, as a function of IL|
5.1. First example: average-case run time of minimum degree. The
running time of the minimum degree ordering algorithm is notoriously difficult to
analyze. Under modest assumptions, a loose worst-case upper bound on the run time
of the AMD variant of this method is given by
(5.1) o ( L i. i(PAPT)k, ,
where P is the permutation found by AMD, L is the Cholesky factor of PAPT, and
|x| denotes the number of nonzeros in a vector or matrix [1, 2]. The bound does not
consider the speedup obtained by exploiting supernodes, which has not been analyzed
because the graph changes unpredictably during the elimination.
A single dense row or column of A leads to a run time of at least Q(n2), but AMD
includes a preprocessing step that removes any row or column with degree 10/n or
larger (the effect of this step is not accounted for in (5.1)). Still, a host of nearly-dense
rows/columns could lead to unacceptable ordering time. Is the bound (5.1) reached
in practice? What is the average-case time complexity of AMD?
Determining the theoretical average-case time complexity is beyond the scope of
any analysis that has been done for this algorithm, so the bestthhat can be done is
to test the method on a set of i- I 1,s sparse matrices that arise in practice. The
results of ordering A+AT (ignoring numerical cancellation in the matrix addition) on
all structurally non-singular square matrices in the collection (1361 of them, excluding
3 matrices too large for this experiment) are shown in Figures 5.1 and 5.2.
Each matrix is a single circle in the plots. The results are split into two sets:
matrices from problems with 2D/3D geometry, and problems without any underlying
geometry. Each plot includes a best-fit line. Figure 5.1 shows that O(IL|) is a very
loose upper bound on the average case run time (excluding a few worst-case examples),
even though O(|IL) is already a much lower bound than (5.1). The best-fit line is the
function T(|L|) O(|L|0o77) in both plots. Figure 5.2 shows that for most matrices,
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SPARSE MATRIX COLLECTION
Problems with 2D/3D geometry Problems with no 2D/3D geometry
102 104 106 108 102 104 106 108
FIG. 5.2. AMD run time over AI, as a function of IAI
O(|A|) could be considered a reasonable estimate of the average-case time complexity
of the AMD algorithm for problems with 2D/3D geometry (the slope is essentially
flat; T(IAI) = O(|A|197)). The algorithm examines each entry in A, so it must be
Q(IAI) even in the best case. For problems with no 2D/3D geometry, the slope of
the best-fit line is slightly positive, indicating a function T(IAI) O(IAI111). The
outliers in this figure tend to have many nearly-dense rows and columns.
5.2. Second example: BLAS tradeoff in sparse Cholesky factorization.
CHOLMOD is a sparse Cholesky factorization and update/downdate package that
appears in x=A\b and chol(A) in MATLAB, when A is sparse and symmetric positive
definite [18, 25]. It includes two sparse Cholesky factorization methods, a BLAS-
based supernodal method  and an up-looking non-BLAS-based method . The
two methods are included because a BLAS-based method is slower for very sparse
matrices (tridiagonal ones, for example). The dense matrix operations in the BLAS
gain their performance advantage when the ratio of floating-point work to memory
traffic is high. Thus, we predicted that the ratio of the number of floating-point
operations over the number of nonzeros in L would be a good way to automatically
select the appropriate method. Both of these terms are available from the symbolic
analysis, prior to numerical factorization. A similar metric was used to compare the
BLAS-based SuperLU method I-'] with its non-BLAS based precursor, GPLU .
The primary difference is that for sparse LU factorization, the metric can only be
estimated prior to numeric factorization, which limits its use as a simple method for
selecting the appropriate method.
Two questions remain: how useful is this metric, and what should the cutoff value
be? We tested both methods with 320 matrices from the collection: all symmetric
positive definite matrices and all symmetric binary matrices with zero-free diagonals
to which values were added to ensure positive-definiteness; random matrices were
excluded (as of September 2006, when there were only 1377 matrices in the collection).
The relative performance of the two methods is plotted versus the flops/|L| ratio, as
shown in Figure 5.3. These results show that the flops/|L| ratio is a remarkably
E 3 o
U) 2 0.6 0
1.2 D o
1 .- o
I 08 o8 _.-
2 10 40 100 1000 5000
floating-point operations / nnz(L)
FIG. 5.3. CHOLMOD relative supernodal and non-supernodal performance, from 
accurate predictor of the relative performance of these two methods (much better
than we expected). They also show that a value of 40 on a Pentium 4 is a good
threshold. Even when the wrong method is selected using is approach, at most a
', '. performance penalty occurs. The threshold of 40 is fairly insensitive to the
architecture (it would be 30 on an AMD processor, and 35 on a Sun Sparc). It would
be impossible to determine this cutoff using random matrices or a theoretical analysis.
6. Summary. A large, easily accessible, and actively growing collection of sparse
matrices from real applications is crucial for the development and testing of sparse
matrix algorithms. The University of Florida Sparse Matrix Collection meets this
need, as the largest collection available and one of the most widely used.
Computational scientists are encouraged to submit their sparse matrices for inclu-
sion in the collection. Matrices used in published performance evaluations of sparse
matrix algorithms are of particular interest, to enable repeatable experiments by
other researchers. Submit matrices to http://www.cise.ufl.edu/~web-gfs, for user-
name davis. Use a standard format for the matrix, such as a MATLAB MAT-file,
a Rutherford-Boeing file, a Matrix Market file, or a list of triplets (where each line
of the file contains the row index, column index, and numerical value of one entry
in the matrix). Include a description of the matrix, the problem area it arises from,
citations (if available), and source (in case the matrix author and submitter are dif-
ferent). Refer to Section 3.2 for more details about the meta-data to submit. Refer
to Table 3.2 for a list of categories, and select one of them for your matrix or propose
a new one.
Acknowledgments. I would like to thank John Gilbert for his comments on
random sparse matrices and his feedback on a draft of this paper. I would also like to
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SPARSE MATRIX COLLECTION
thank the 239 matrix authors and 48 editors/collectors (excluding myself) who made
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