Reducing I/O variability using dynamic I/O path characterization in petascale storage systems

Seung Woo Son*, Saba Sehrish, Wei keng Liao, Ron Oldfield, Alok Choudhary

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In petascale systems with a million CPU cores, scalable and consistent I/O performance is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain mainly because of I/O variability. The I/O variability is caused by concurrently running processes/jobs competing for I/O or a RAID rebuild when a disk drive fails. We present a mechanism that stripes across a selected subset of I/O nodes with the lightest workload at runtime to achieve the highest I/O bandwidth available in the system. In this paper, we propose a probing mechanism to enable application-level dynamic file striping to mitigate I/O variability. We implement the proposed mechanism in the high-level I/O library that enables memory-to-file data layout transformation and allows transparent file partitioning using subfiling. Subfiling is a technique that partitions data into a set of files of smaller size and manages file access to them, making data to be treated as a single, normal file to users. We demonstrate that our bandwidth probing mechanism can successfully identify temporally slower I/O nodes without noticeable runtime overhead. Experimental results on NERSC’s systems also show that our approach isolates I/O variability effectively on shared systems and improves overall collective I/O performance with less variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2069-2097
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Supercomputing
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • I/O variability
  • Parallel I/O
  • PnetCDF
  • Subfile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture

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