Locale Models


Chapel's original computer system architecture model was a collection of simple locales connected by a communication network. The locales had one or more homogeneous processor cores and one kind of memory, with all the memory equidistant from all the processor cores. But while this model was conceptually easy to deal with, it couldn't support users who wanted to take advantage of modern node architectures. To support these, we are extending architectural descriptions. In the new model the top level may still be a network of locales, but the locales are more complicated. They may be internally heterogeneous, containing multiple instances of memories and/or processors with differing characteristics. They may also be hierarchical, with parent locales containing one or more child sublocales within them.

There are currently three locale models available, flat, NUMA, and KNL. The flat model is the default and maps closely to the view of locales implemented in the 1.7 release. The NUMA locale model maps sublocales to NUMA domains. The NUMA model is currently implemented at a prototype level. Performance has not yet been a focus in the NUMA locale model and will require additional effort in future releases. The KNL locale model provides support for self-hosting Xeon Phi (formerly Knight's Landing) processors and includes provision for access to tightly-coupled on-package high-bandwidth DRAM memory. We expect to add more locale models in future releases.

Architecture support in the modules

The code emitted by the compiler contains calls to support routines that manage memory, communication, and tasking, among other things. Before hierarchical locale support was added, these calls were all satisfied directly by the runtime. With hierarchical locales, now they are satisfied by the Chapel module code that defines the architecture of a locale. The required interface for this is defined by ChapelLocale and implemented by LocaleModel.chpl. The required interface is still a work in progress and will continue to evolve.

Flat Locale Model

The current default locale model is the flat locale model. In the flat model, locales have homogeneous processor cores and all cores are equidistant from memory.

NUMA Locale Model

In the NUMA locale model, the processor is split into NUMA domains and cores within a domain have faster access to local memory.

The NUMA locale model is supported most fully when qthreads tasking is used. While other tasking layers are also functionally correct using the NUMA locale model, they are not NUMA aware. In addition, the Portable Hardware Locality library (hwloc) is used with qthreads to map sublocales to NUMA domains. For more information about qthreads and about tuning parameters such as the number of qthread shepherds per locale, please see Chapel Tasks.

To use the NUMA locale model:

  1. Set the CHPL_LOCALE_MODEL environment variable to numa.
  1. Re-make the compiler and runtime from CHPL_HOME
  1. Compile your Chapel program as usual.
chpl -o jacobi $CHPL_HOME/examples/programs/jacobi.chpl

Performance Considerations

Performance when using the NUMA locale model is currently somewhat hit-or-miss.

Development in the 1.15 release improved array data locality in the NUMA locale model by adding the ability to split array data storage into blocks and distribute those blocks across NUMA domains. Based on the internal term for array data storage, such arrays are called multi-ddata arrays. Although only large arrays (2 MiB or more) can have multiple data blocks, the array addressing code to support them is always present when the NUMA locale model is used. This code has turned out to cause large performance degradations in some cases, but it has also improved performance quite a bit in others.

On the downside, array indexing in the NUMA locale model in 1.15 is much slower when the program iterates over an array's domain or the domain's range, as the first two cases below. However, if the program iterates over array elements themselves as in the last case below, then performance is roughly the same as in previous releases:

var R = 0..n;
var D = {R};
var A: [D] int;

forall i in D do ... A[i] ...; // slower than 1.14
forall i in R do ... A[i] ...; // slower than 1.14
forall a in A do ... a ...;    // same or better performance as 1.14

Whether the iteration is zippered or not is largely immaterial with respect to these performance changes. In particular, zippered iteration over multiple arrays performs well, but if even one component of the zippered iterator is a domain or range instead of an array then the performance will be poor. Finally, serial iteration has slowed down in even more cases than has parallel iteration, with the exception that serial iteration over a 1-dimensional array (as opposed to its domain or range) remains as fast in 1.15 as it was in 1.14.

Counteracting this to some extent, on Cray XE and XC systems with CHPL_COMM=ugni and a hugepage-resident heap, the heap itself and any multi-ddata array will have proper NUMA locality, potentially improving performance. As an example, as of 1.15, on a Cray XC system, the stream-ep benchmark with the NUMA locale model and CHPL_COMM=ugni sped up by over 2x and is now at performance parity with the reference version.

Over the course of the next release we expect to refine the NUMA locale model implementation and resolve the array access problems that are causing the poor performance in the NUMA locale model.

KNL Locale Model

The KNL locale model has the same properties as the NUMA locale model, plus it allows access to the Xeon Phi processor's on-package high-bandwidth memory.

The KNL locale model requires the Intel Memkind library, which can be obtained in source form, and is also available in the binary repositories of some Linux distributions.

For more information on the Memkind library, please see:

On a Cray system, Memkind can be loaded with the following command. Note that this makes dynamic linking the default, because Memkind is dynamically linked.

module load cray-memkind

Once the Memkind library is available, Chapel can be built using the instructions under NUMA Locale Model, except that CHPL_LOCALE_MODEL must be set to knl.

On a Cray system, the KNL locale model is included in the Chapel module, so the following commands are sufficient.

module load cray-memkind
module load chapel

Please see Using Chapel on Cray Systems for more detailed information.

New locale model member functions are provided for controlling which kind of memory is used for new allocations. To allocate in high bandwidth memory, use the .highBandwidthMemory() member function. For example:

on here.highBandwidthMemory() {
  x = new MyObject();

It is also possible to say "Use the same locale as variable y, but use high bandwidth memory" as follows.

on y.locale.highBandwidthMemory() {
  // . . .

In case one is nested inside on statements and desires to get back to the default externally-attached memory, a .defaultMemory() member function is available.

on x {
  // . . .
  on here.defaultMemory() {
    // . . .

In addition, .lowLatencyMemory() and .largeMemory() functions are provided for explicitly referencing the externally-attached memory. In the KNL locale model, .defaultMemory(), .lowLatencyMemory(), and .largeMemory() are all the same.

If the KNL processor is booted in the cache configuration, where high-bandwidth memory is not exposed to the user, then the program will still run and .highBandwidthMemory() will use the default externally-attached memory.

The four memory selection functions have also been added to the flat and NUMA locale models, so it is possible to write programs that take advantage of the KNL processor when it is present, and yet still run on other processors.

Please see Using Chapel on Intel "Knights Landing" for additional information.

Qthreads thread scheduling

When qthreads tasking is used, different Qthreads thread schedulers are selected depending upon the CHPL_LOCALE_MODEL setting. For the flat locale model the "nemesis" thread scheduler is used, and for the NUMA and KNL locale models the "distrib" thread scheduler is used. This selection is done at the time the Qthreads third-party package is built, and cannot be adjusted later, either at user compile time or at execution time.

Caveats for using the NUMA locale model

  • Explicit memory allocation for NUMA domains is not yet implemented.
  • Distributed arrays other than Block do not yet map iterations to NUMA domains.
  • Performance for NUMA has not been optimized.