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 two locale models available: flat and NUMA. 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. 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 $CHPL_HOME/examples/hello6-taskpar-dist.chpl

Performance Considerations

Performance when using the NUMA locale model is currently no better than when using the flat locale model, and often worse. At present most of our effort has to do with making better use of first-touch to achieve NUMA affinity.

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 locale model 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.