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Characterizing Output Bottlenecks of a Production Supercomputer: Analysis and Implications

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ACM Transactions on Storage
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This article studies the I/O write behaviors of the Titan supercomputer and its Lustre parallel file stores under production load. The results can inform the design, deployment, and configuration of file systems along with the design of I/O software in the application, operating system, and adaptive I/O libraries.

We propose a statistical benchmarking methodology to measure write performance across I/O configurations, hardware settings, and system conditions. Moreover, we introduce two relative measures to quantify the write-performance behaviors of hardware components under production load. In addition to designing experiments and benchmarking on Titan, we verify the experimental results on one real application and one real application I/O kernel, XGC and HACC IO, respectively. These two are representative and widely used to address the typical I/O behaviors of applications.

In summary, we find that Titan’s I/O system is variable across the machine at fine time scales. This variability has two major implications. First, stragglers lessen the benefit of coupled I/O parallelism (striping). Peak median output bandwidths are obtained with parallel writes to many independent files, with no striping or write sharing of files across clients (compute nodes). I/O parallelism is most effective when the application—or its I/O libraries—distributes the I/O load so that each target stores files for multiple clients and each client writes files on multiple targets in a balanced way with minimal contention. Second, our results suggest that the potential benefit of dynamic adaptation is limited. In particular, it is not fruitful to attempt to identify “good locations” in the machine or in the file system: component performance is driven by transient load conditions and past performance is not a useful predictor of future performance. For example, we do not observe diurnal load patterns that are predictable.