Dynamic File-Access Characteristics of a Production Parallel Scientific Workload

David Kotz, Dartmouth College
Nils Nieuwejaar, Dartmouth College

Report by Dartmouth Department of Computer Science


Multiprocessors have permitted astounding increases in computational performance, but many cannot meet the intense I/O requirements of some scientific applications. An important component of any solution to this I/O bottleneck is a parallel file system that can provide high-bandwidth access to tremendous amounts of data \em in parallel\/ to hundreds or thousands of processors. \par Most successful systems are based on a solid understanding of the characteristics of the expected workload, but until now there have been no comprehensive workload characterizations of multiprocessor file systems. We began the CHARISMA project in an attempt to fill that gap. We instrumented the common node library on the iPSC/860 at NASA Ames to record all file-related activity over a two-week period. Our instrumentation is different from previous efforts in that it collects information about every read and write request and about the \em mix\/ of jobs running in the machine (rather than from selected applications). \par The trace analysis in this paper leads to many recommendations for designers of multiprocessor file systems. First, the file system should support simultaneous access to many different files by many jobs. Second, it should expect to see many small requests, predominantly sequential and regular access patterns (although of a different form than in uniprocessors), little or no concurrent file-sharing between jobs, significant byte- and block-sharing between processes within jobs, and strong interprocess locality. Third, our trace-driven simulations showed that these characteristics led to great success in caching, both at the compute nodes and at the I/O nodes. Finally, we recommend supporting strided I/O requests in the file-system interface, to reduce overhead and allow more performance optimization by the file system.