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CASTEP on Sulis

  1. Compilation
  2. Enhanced Performance with MKL 19

These notes are a work in progress and do not represent a final position on how to get best performance from CASTEP on Sulis.


An out-of-the-box compilation of CASTEP 20.11 against the foss 2020b toolchain produces a build which passes all tests.

[user@login01(sulis) ~]$ cd CASTEP-20.11
[user@login01(sulis) ~]$ module load foss/2020b
[user@login01(sulis) ~]$ export BUILD=fast
[user@login01(sulis) ~]$ export COMMS_ARCH=mpi
[user@login01(sulis) ~]$ export FFT=fftw3
[user@login01(sulis) ~]$ export MATHLIBS=openblas
[user@login01(sulis) ~]$ make

Paths to OpenBLAS and FFTW3 if not detected automatically can be interrogated via the environment variables $EBROOTOPENBLAS and $EBROOTFFTW after loading the foss/2020b module.

Enhanced Performance with MKL 19

A significant performance uplift is available by using Intel MKL 19.5 in place of OpenBLAS. This requires setting the MATHLIBS variable above to mkl rather than openblas and specifying the path to Intel MKL as:


By default MKL will assume a minimal instruction set for non-Intel processors and give poor performance. It is therefore necessary to the set the following environment variables in SLURM job scripts which use MKL.


In testing, use of MKL over OpenBLAS resulted in a 5-10% uplift in performance over OpenBLAS when running CASTEP benchmarks. Newer versions of MKL do not support this override.

We intend to make the EasyBuild gomkl toolchain available in future to make this process simpler.