Why Lustre Is Set to Excel in Exascale

By Brent Gorda, CEO and President, Whamcloud

June 27, 2011

File systems are a critical component of the modern supercomputing architectural model. Tying together vast numbers of compute nodes to achieve the highest computational speeds depends on a set of robust, coordinated fire hoses of data to connect the compute to the storage. Just as the computational model has gone parallel, so too has the storage.

Recent exascale plans call for a technology demonstration system in the 2015 timeframe. That system is planned for 400 petaflops peak and thus requires more data than can be delivered in a single stream. Using the aging ASC* ratios of 1000:1, 400 petaflops would require 400 terabytes/second from the file system.

To satisfy these kinds of I/O demands, should the HPC community start from scratch or build out from current file system technologies? File systems must go ultra-parallel to keep up with increasing data speed requirements, but what technical approach is best?

Evolutionary or revolutionary is the key question.

The hardware story is deja vu. With compute, the answer that worked was to boost performance on the single unit and go widely parallel. Until power limitations and massive parallelism issues get in the way, this approach is a proven strategy. With storage, for hundreds to thousands of storage units, this approach will carry the weight as well. Today, as individual scalable storage units (SSUs) accelerate toward double-digit gigabytes per second, a terabyte per second of I/O bandwidth – the stretch goal for current DOE work – is within reach.

On the software side, however, building parallel file systems has proven to be a challenge. It is widely believed that it takes ten years to mature a file system to the point it is usable in production HPC environments. That is not to say that a newcomer could not steal the show, but it does give some indication of the level of effort required to establish a new file system. By that metric it is already late in the game to start up a new file system project.

As the best example of the evolutionary path, there are multiple and significant benefits to the Lustre file system. It is open source, it is mature, it is widely used in government and academic sites, it has years of strong corporate support and it has the right architectural base from which to conduct cutting edge development.

Lustre is the market leading storage solution for HPC. It is extremely popular, especially in government and academic HPC. Lustre is implemented in about 70 of the top 100 systems in the Top 500 list (http://www.top500.org/) and many of these sites have made considerable investments into using and developing Lustre.

Being open source, Lustre has also been used extensively in the academic community as a development workbench. This has given students and researchers a unique opportunity to try out their ideas “for real” rather than relying on simulation results. When you are looking for solutions to a very large and complicated problem, you can do no better than to have a great number of academic research institutions already familiar with the technology, using it, and contributing to its growth.

HPC file system technologists generally agree that the POSIX storage API imposes fundamental obstacles to scalability and, therefore, will have to be abandoned for exascale. Any unintended contention or serialization is prohibitive at exascale and although there is disagreement on the specifics, there is general consensus that exascale file systems will be based on some sort of object store.

Since Lustre is based on an object store, it already has the right fundamental architecture for exascale. The evolution that is required is to make this object store accessible safely and tractably to applications and users. One possible approach is to introduce new file types to Lustre that will provide exascale object storage semantics internally. This will require development of the underlying object model, but it holds the promise that the same file system will be able to support the full range of applications from (legacy) POSIX through to exascale.

Finally, Lustre is both mature and stable today, which is a necessary starting point for rapid and diverse development. Lustre started as a project in 1999 and was developed by the company that created it, Cluster File Systems, until that company was acquired by Sun in 2007. After the acquisition, Sun and subsequently Oracle invested considerable money and effort in Lustre to prioritize stability and maturity. One example was that in 2008, Sun joined the Hyperion consortium created by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and made extensive use of the 1,152 node test Hyperion cluster. The results have been impressive and Lustre 1.8.5 released by Oracle is in wide and stable use throughout the world. At just over 13 years old, Lustre has indeed passed the ten-year-to-maturity metric.

The path to exascale is risky, but an evolutionary approach with Lustre, the leading open source technology, seems the best way to mitigate the risk. Starting over entails re-inventing much of the infrastructure (e.g., networking and data movement, metadata and recovery capabilities) that makes up a distributed file system and seems a needless diversion from getting to the meat of the problem.

By starting with proven, robust and mature technologies, it is possible to focus on the significant issues relating to exascale performance. What’s more, an open source solution already popular in the research community primes the research agenda to ensure the best talent is engaged and the best answers will emerge.

The end result may not contain so much of the original Lustre code base and it may not even share the same name by the time we get to exascale. But starting with Lustre gives our community the best chance of success producing the exascale file system performance, reliability and maturity that will be required by high performance computing.

—–

* In 1995, the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program was conceived to support the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) mission of maintaining the country’s nuclear arsenal without the benefit of underground nuclear testing.

—–

About the author

Brent Gorda, Whamcloud CEO and President, joined Whamcloud from the US Department of Energy where he was involved in program funding and strategic adoption of the Lustre File System at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and other ASCI labs.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together about 30 participants from industry, government and academia t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This