PLFS: A Checkpoint Filesystem for Parallel Applications


SC09 Paper, Source Code, Traces, Man Pages.


Parallel applications running across thousands of processors must protect themselves from inevitable component failures. Many applications insulate themselves from failures by checkpointing, a process in which they save their state to persistent storage. Following a failure, they can resume computation using this state. For many applications, saving this state into a shared single file is most convenient. With such an approach, the size of writes are often small and not aligned with file system boundaries. Unfortunately for these applications, this preferred data layout results in pathologically poor performance from the underlying file system which is optimized for large, aligned writes to non-shared files.

To address this fundamental mismatch, we have developed a parallel log-structured file system, PLFS, which is positioned between the applications and the underlying parallel file system. PLFS remaps an application’s write access pattern to be optimized for the underlying file system. Through testing on Panasas ActiveScale Storage System and IBM’s General Parallel File System at Los Alamos National Lab and on Lustre at Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center, we have seen that this layer of indirection and reorganization can reduce checkpoint time by up to several orders of magnitude for several important benchmarks and real applications.

This graph summarizes our results which are explained in detail in our SC09 paper. The key observation is that our technique improves checkpoint bandwidths for many different synthetic benchmarks and real applications by up to several orders of magnitude. Several new applications have been added since the SC09 paper.

We expect that PLFS can improve the checkpoint bandwidth for any large parallel application that writes to a single file. The expected improvement is especially large for those applications doing unaligned or random IO, patterns which have become increasingly prevalent recently due to the wide-spread adoption of complex formatting libraries such as NetCDF and HDF5.

Available as: SC09 Paper, Source Code, Traces, Man Pages.


Los Alamos National Laboratory

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

LANL Technical Release LA-UR-08-07314 and LA-UR 09-02117

LANL PLFS Website designed and hosted by
Institutes Office at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Email Contacts: John Bent, Gary Grider, James Nunez