Cori uses Lustre as its $SCRATCH file system. For many applications a technique called file striping will increase I/O performance. File striping will primarily improve performance for codes doing serial I/O from a single node or parallel I/O from multiple nodes writing to a single shared file as with MPI-I/O, parallel HDF5 or parallel NetCDF.

The Lustre file system is made up of an underlying set of I/O servers and disks called Object Storage Servers (OSSs) and Object Storage Targets (OSTs) respectively. A file is said to be striped when read and write operations access multiple OST's concurrently. File striping is a way to increase I/O performance since writing or reading from multiple OST's simultaneously increases the available I/O bandwidth.

NERSC Striping Recommendation

  • The default striping is set to 1 on Cori's $SCRATCH.
  • This means that each file created with the default striping is split across 1 OSTs on Cori.
  • Selecting the best striping can be complicated since striping a file over too few OSTs will not take advantage of the system's available bandwidth but striping over too many will cause unnecessary overhead and lead to a loss in performance.
  • NERSC has provided striping command shortcuts based on file size to simplify optimization on Cori.
  • Users who want more detail should read the sections below and open a ticket with NERSC Consulting if there are additional questions.

NERSC also provide empirical recommendations for striping based on I/O pattern

  • Shared file I/O
    • Either one processor does all the I/O for a simulation in serial or multiple processors write to a single shared file as with MPI-IO and parallel HDF5 or NetCDF
  • File per process
    • Each process writes to its own file resulting in as many files as number of processes used (for a given output)
Single Shared-File I/O File per Process
File size (GB) command
< 1 do nothing (use default) keep default striping
1 - 10 stripe_small keep default striping
10 - 100 stripe_medium keep default striping
> 100 stripe_large keep default striping

Striping must be set on a file before is written. For example, one could simultaneously create an empty file which will later be 10-100 GB in size and set its striping appropriately with the command:

nersc$ stripe_medium $output_file

This could be done before running a job which will later populate this file. Striping of a file cannot be changed once the file has been written to, aside from copying the existing file into a newly created (empty) file with the desired striping.

stripe_small will set the number of ost as 8, stripe_medium will have 24 ost and stripe_large will set as 72. In all cases, the stripe size is 1MB.

Files inherit the striping configuration of the directory in which they are created. Importantly, the desired striping must be set on the directory before creating the files (later changes of the directory striping are not inherited). When copying an existing striped file into a striped directory, the new copy will inherit the directory's striping configuration. This provides another approach to changing the striping of an existing file.

Inheritance of striping provides a convenient way to set the striping on multiple output files at once, if all such files are written to the same output directory. For example, if a job will produce multiple 10-100 GB output files in a known output directory, the striping of the latter can be configured before job submission:

nersc$ stripe_medium $output_directory

Or one could put the striping command directly into the job script:

#SBATCH --qos=debug
#SBATCH -t 00:10:00
#SBATCH -J my_job


stripe_medium myOutputDir

srun -n 10 ./a.out

Lustre Striping

To set striping for a file or directory use the command

nersc$ lfs setstripe

Each file and directory can have a separate striping pattern and a directory's striping setting can be overridden for a particular file by issuing the lfs setstripe command for individual files within that directory. However, as noted above, striping settings for a file must be set before it is created. If the settings for an existing file are changed, it will only get the new striping setting if the file is recreated. If the settings for an existing directory are changed, the files need to be copied elsewhere and then copied back to the directory in order to inherit the new settings. The lfs setstripe syntax is:

nersc$ lfs setstripe --size [stripe-size] --index [OST-start-index]
--count [stripe-count] filename
Option Description Default
stripe-size Number of bytes write on one OST before cycling to the next. Use multiples of 1MB. Default has been most successful. 1MB
stripe-count Number of OSTs a file exists on 1 on Cori
OST-start-index Starting OST. Default highly recommended -1 (System follows a round robin procedure to optimize creation of files by all users.)