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Burst Buffer

The NERSC Burst Buffer is based on Cray DataWarp that uses flash or SSD (solid-state drive) technology to significantly increase the I/O performance on Cori for all file sizes and all access patterns.


Currently, the Burst Buffer granularity is 82GiB. If you request an allocation smaller than this amount, your files will sit on one Burst Buffer node. If you request more than this amount, then your files will be striped over multiple Burst Buffer nodes. For example, if you request 25GiB then your files all sit on the same Burst Buffer server. This is important, because each Burst Buffer server has a maximum possible bandwidth of roughly 6.5GB/s - so your aggregate bandwidth is summed over the number of Burst Buffer servers. If other people are accessing data on the same Burst Buffer server at the same time, then you will share that bandwidth and will be unlikely to reach the theoretical peak.

  • It is better to stripe your data over many Burst Buffer servers, particularly if you have a large number of compute nodes trying to access the data.

  • The number of Burst Buffer nodes used by an application should be scaled up with the number of compute nodes, to keep the Burst Buffer nodes busy but not over-subscribed. The exact ratio of compute to Burst Buffer nodes will depend on the amount of I/O load produced by the application.

Use large transfer sizes

We have seen that using transfer sizes less than 512KiB results in poor performance. In general, we recommend using as large a transfer size as possible.

Use more processes per Burst Buffer node

We have seen that the Burst Buffer cannot be kept busy with less than 4 processes writing to each Burst Buffer node - less than this will not be able to achieve the peak potential performance of roughly 6.5 GB/s per node.