Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Research Program

Need for System-Scale Optimization

Firstly, in order for applications to make the best possible use of the available resources, it is impossible to expose all the low-level details of the hardware to the program, as it would make impossible to achieve portability. Hence, the standard approach is to add intermediate layers (programming models, libraries, compilers, runtime systems, etc.) to the software stack so as to bridge the gap between the application and the hardware. With this approach, optimizing the application requires to express its parallelism (within the imposed programming model), organize the code, schedule and load-balance the computations, etc. In other words, in this approach, the way the code is written and the way it is executed and interpreted by the lower layers drives the optimization. In any case, this approach is centered on how computations are performed. Such an approach is therefore no longer sufficient, as the way an application is executing does depend less and less on the organization of computation and more and more on the way its data is managed.

Secondly, modern large-scale parallel platforms comprise tens to hundreds of thousand nodes (More than 22,500 XE6 compute node for the BlueWaters system; 5040 B510 Bullx Nodes for the Curie machine; more than 49,000 BGQ nodes for the MIRA machine.). However, very few applications use the whole machine. In general, an application runs only on a subset of the nodes (In 2014, the median case was 2048 nodes for the BlueWaters system and, for the first year of the Curie machine, the median case was 256 nodes). Therefore, most of the time, an application shares the network, the storage and other resources with other applications running concurrently during its execution. Depending on the allocated resources, it is not uncommon that the execution of one application interferes with the execution of a neighboring one.

Lastly, even if an application is running alone, each element of the software stack often performs its own optimization independently. For instance, when considering an hybrid MPI /OpenMP application, one may realize that threads are concurrently used within the OpenMP runtime system, within the MPI library for communication progression, and possibly within the computation library (BLAS) and even within the application itself (pthreads). However, none of these different classes of threads are aware of the existence of the others. Consequently, the way they are executed, scheduled, prioritized does not depend on their relative roles, their locations in the software stack nor on the state of the application.

The above remarks show that in order to go beyond the state-of-the-art, it is necessary to design a new set of mechanisms allowing cross-layer and system-wide optimizations so as to optimize the way data is allocated, accessed and transferred by the application.