AuthorsJ. Langguth, M. Sourouri and X. Cai
EditorsY. Zou
TitleMemory Bandwidth Contention: Communication vs Computation Tradeoffs in Supercomputers with Multicore Architectures
AfilliationScientific Computing
Project(s)Meeting Exascale Computing with Source-to-Source Compilers
Publication TypeProceedings, refereed
Year of Publication2018
Conference NameInternational Conference on Parallel and Distributed Systems (ICPADS)
Place PublishedSingapore
KeywordsHybrid MPI/OpenMP, Memory bandwidth contention, Multicore supercomputers, performance modeling, Scientific Computing

We study the problem of contention for memory bandwidth between computation and communication in supercomputers that feature multicore CPUs. The problem arises when communication and computation are overlapped, and both operations compete for the same memory bandwidth. This contention is most visible at the limits of scalability, when communication and computation take similar amounts of time, and thus must be taken into account in order to reach maximum scalability in memory bandwidth bound applications. Typical examples of codes affected by the memory bandwidth contention problem are sparse matrix-vector computations, graph algorithms, and many machine learning problems, as they typically exhibit a high demand for both memory bandwidth and inter-node communication, while performing a relatively low number of arithmetic operations.

The problem is even more relevant in truly heterogeneous computations where CPUs and accelerators are used in concert. In that case it can lead to mispredictions of expected performance and consequently to suboptimal load balancing between CPU and accelerator, which in turn can lead to idling of powerful accelerators and thus to a large decrease in performance.

We propose a simple benchmark in order to quantify the loss of performance due to memory bandwidth contention. Based on that, we derive a theoretical model to determine the impact of the phenomenon on parallel memory-bound applications. We test the model on scientific computations, discuss the practical relevance of the problem and suggest possible techniques to remedy it.

Citation Key26132