Publications / Journal Article

Evaluating MPI resource usage summary statistics

Ferreira, Kurt B.; Levy, Scott

The Message Passing Interface (MPI) remains the dominant programming model for scientific applications running on today's high-performance computing (HPC) systems. This dominance stems from MPI's powerful semantics for inter-process communication that has enabled scientists to write applications for simulating important physical phenomena. MPI does not, however, specify how messages and synchronization should be carried out. Those details are typically dependent on low-level architecture details and the message characteristics of the application. Therefore, analyzing an application's MPI resource usage is critical to tuning MPI's performance on a particular platform. The result of this analysis is typically a discussion of the mean message sizes, queue search lengths and message arrival times for a workload or set of workloads. While a discussion of the arithmetic mean in MPI resource usage might be the most intuitive summary statistic, it is not always the most accurate in terms of representing the underlying data. In this paper, we analyze MPI resource usage for a number of key MPI workloads using an existing MPI trace collector and discrete-event simulator. Our analysis demonstrates that the average, while easy and efficient to calculate, is a useful metric for characterizing latency and bandwidth measurements, but may not be a good representation of application message sizes, match list search depths, or MPI inter-operation times. Additionally, we show that the median and mode are superior choices in many cases. We also observe that the arithmetic mean is not the best representation of central tendency for data that are drawn from distributions that are multi-modal or have heavy tails. The results and analysis of our work provide valuable guidance on how we, as a community, should discuss and analyze MPI resource usage data for scientific applications.