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Technical Report

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Technical Report Number



As parallel systems move into the production scientific computing world, the emphasis will be on cost-effective solutions that provide high throughput for a mix of applications. Cost-effective solutions demand that a system make effective use of all of its resources. Many MIMD multiprocessors today, however, distinguish between ``compute'' and ``I/O'' nodes, the latter having attached disks and being dedicated to running the file-system server. This static division of responsibilities simplifies system management but does not necessarily lead to the best performance in workloads that need a different balance of computation and I/O. Of course, computational processes sharing a node with a file-system service may receive less CPU time, network bandwidth, and memory bandwidth than they would on a computation-only node. In this paper we examine this issue experimentally. We found that high-performance I/O does not necessarily require substantial CPU time, leaving plenty of time for application computation. There were some complex file-system requests, however, which left little CPU time available to the application. (The impact on network and memory bandwidth still needs to be determined.) For applications (or users) that cannot tolerate an occasional interruption, we recommend that they continue to use only compute nodes. For tolerant applications needing more cycles than those provided by the compute nodes, we recommend that they take full advantage of both compute and I/O nodes for computation, and that operating systems should make this possible.


Revised version appeared in IOPADS '95 at IPPS '95, pages 78-89.