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 $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. The multi-ddata feature introduced in the 1.15 Chapel release improved some cases for the NUMA locale model but slowed many others, sometimes by a lot. In the end we disabled it because much of the performance loss was inherent in the implementation and could not be removed. On Cray XE and XC systems with CHPL_COMM=ugni and NIC-registered memory, recent work to allocate arrays separately and register them dynamically has improved NUMA affinity and thus performance, but the benefits of that effort apply to the flat locale model as well as they do to the numa one. For other configurations, with the multi-ddata feature disabled performance with the NUMA locale model has returned, for better or worse, to what it was before that was introduced. At present most of our effort has to do with making better use of first-touch to achieve NUMA affinity.

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.