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Ad hoc file systems for HPC

André Brinkmann, Kathryn Mohror, Weikuan Yu, Philip Carns, Toni Cortes, Scott A. Klasky, Alberto Miranda, Franz-Josef Pfreundt, Robert B. Ross, and Marc-André Vef

This paper has been accepted for publication in JCST, the Journal of Computer Science and Technology, in a special issue on HPC I/O, expected to appear in print in January 2020.

Abstract: Storage backends of parallel compute clusters are still based mostly on magnetic disks, while newer and faster storage technologies such as flash-based SSDs or non-volatile random access memory (NVRAM) are deployed within compute nodes. Including these new storage technologies into scientific workflows is unfortunately today a mostly manual task, and most scientists therefore do not take advantage of the faster storage media. One approach to systematically include node-local SSDs or NVRAMs into scientific workflows is to deploy ad hoc file systems over a set of compute nodes, which serve as temporary storage systems for single applications or longer-running campaigns.

This paper presents results from the Dagstuhl Seminar 17202 "Challenges and Opportunities of User-Level File Systems for HPC" and discusses application scenarios as well as design strategies for ad hoc file systems using node-local storage media. The discussion includes open research questions, such as how to couple ad hoc file systems with the batch scheduling environment and how to schedule stage-in and stage-out processes of data between the storage backend and the ad hoc file systems. Also presented are strategies to build ad hoc file systems by using reusable components for networking and how to improve storage device compatibility. Various interfaces and semantics are presented, for example those used by the three ad hoc file systems BeeOND, GekkoFS, and BurstFS. Their presentation covers a range from file systems running in production to cutting-edge research focusing on reaching the performance limits of the underlying devices.