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25-04-2018 | S.I.: Emerging Intelligent Algorithms for Edge-of-Things Computing | Issue 5/2019 Open Access

Neural Computing and Applications 5/2019

Using hardware counter-based performance model to diagnose scaling issues of HPC applications

Neural Computing and Applications > Issue 5/2019
Nan Ding, Shiming Xu, Zhenya Song, Baoquan Zhang, Jingmei Li, Zhigao Zheng

1 Introduction

Ever-growing supercomputers lead to more and more processing units. The scalability is regarded as one of the most important design objectives of HPC applications [15]. To diagnose an application’s scaling performance, developers have to profile the applications several times on a given number of processes with instrumentation, which may introduce more than 10% overhead for each profiled application run [6, 7] as well as the possible performance deviation. At the same time, the detected performance issues using a specific number of processes may not still be issued when scaling the application. Even conducting laborious analysis on a few selected kernels of the whole application may lead to high risk of missing crucial bottlenecks. Besides, developers may not diagnose applications on real systems because they only have limited opportunities to access the large-scale machine.
Performance modeling is an effective way to understand the scaling performance behaviors and identify the scaling issues earlier. Compared to the traditional diagnose method, performance modeling method is able to predict the scaling performance behaviors by profiling on small-scale parallelisms. Alexandru et al. [1, 2] proposed a performance model to find potential kernels may become bottlenecks when scaling to a large number of processes. However, the kernels they detected do not separate communications and computations. The detected kernels all contain communications. Such results are easily predicted since the time cost of communication usually increases with the growing number of processes. Thus, the computation code sections that do not scale well are still hidden in the complex code.
Analytical performance modeling [811] has ever been widely used to predict application execution time by analyzing the source code and algorithms. It utilizes algorithm details such as iteration times and the number of key variables, to diagnose the scaling runtime of each domain knowledge-oriented kernels. However, such method is highly depended on the algorithm and implementation. Such case-by-case performance modeling approach is very time- and labor-consuming, as well as lacking the portability across applications.
Statistical model [12, 13] tries to overcome the disadvantages by predicting the scaling performance according to a large number of sampled application runs without digging into the source codes. However, it introduces a large number of application runs to train the performance model for achieving satisfying accuracy.
To address the challenges, we propose a resource-based performance modeling method which has the relatively good portability across applications and low diagnose overhead. We diagnose applications’ scaling issue using the performance model-based method with consideration of both resource usages and interactions between applications and the hardware.
To summary, our contributions are:
1. Employing resource-based modeling method to predict large-scale/problem size application runtime using small configuration application profiling efficiently and effectively We propose a resource-based performance modeling technique to predict the scaling runtime and architecture-oriented behaviors of each function. The general idea of our model is to build the performance model from the architecture and system perspective and identify the key and basic performance factors. For compute kernels, these factors are the different types of operations such as executed instructions, loads and stores. We predict these basic operations of each function and combine these predictions into an performance model for the whole application on the target system. For the communication part, the factors are the number and the size of messages. We measure them using the standardized PMPI interface, which is portable across all MPI implementations. And then use LogGP model [14] to predict the communication time. We can build the performance model for different HPC applications with the same modeling methodology and give a comprehensive timing breakdown of the target application as well as the architectural behaviors of each function, without introducing more overhead and potential performance deviation.
2. Employing performance model-based guidance for performance diagnostics Given the fact that users are usually interested in the causes and positions of performance bottlenecks, for example, it is less helpful to tell that a program execution takes square time than pointing to the set of most expensive kernels in the program, and their scaling issues. We use performance modeling technique to predict the application runtime with key performance characters and to discover the performance issue beforehand on three real applications, HOMME [15], CICE [16] and OpenFoam [17]. By using our model, we apply (1) strong scaling diagnostics, (2) week scaling diagnostics, (3) non-scalable compute kernel diagnostics on HOMME and CICE. And we apply (1) strong scaling diagnostics, and (2) load imbalance diagnostics on OpenFoam.
With these efforts, our performance diagnosing method is feasible to provide scaling performance insights and identify the potential performance issues in production-level quality with interpretability and low overhead. We believe our method can be further elaborated to conduct a variety of deeper analyses and possible optimizations for the complex code base.

2 The performance diagnostic framework

The primary objective of our method is to identify the potential scaling issues as well as the corresponding code functions. We use a resource-based modeling alongside time approach for the scaling diagnostics. In our work, we split the parallel application into computation and communication two parts and then predict the computation and communication performance separately and the accumulation of these two part is the final runtime prediction.
The computation runtime equals the accumulation of all compute kernels’ runtime. We use hardware counters to profile the computation scaling characteristics to overcome the large overhead of instrumentations [18]. The communication time is the accumulation of point-to-point (p2p) MPI operations and collective MPI operations. We measure MPI operations using the standardized PMPI interface, and then use LogGP model [14] to conduct the communication time prediction. Such method is portable across applications. The framework includes the following four key modules. Figure 1 gives an overview of the key steps necessary to predict runtime and potential performance issues.
1. Performance measurements We generate the hardware counter profiles for computation using the driver of Intel VTune, which records the executions times plus various hardware counters, such as the number of CPU cycles waiting for memory, the number of executed instructions. All metrics are broken down by call path and MPI ranks. Here, we define each element on the call path is a function without including its children. We use precise event-based sampling (PEBS) [19] for hardware counter profiling. The PEBS mechanism is armed by the overflow of the counter with a precise program counter address at granularity of functions. Thus we can obtain the function list after the profiling runs, together with the hardware counter information. However, manual instruction can be added to profiling a lower-level performance, such as loops. We choose functions as kernels because it is clearly to separate communication and computation in parallel applications to enable us to predict them separately. Assume that we use two MPI ranks in one compute node. The hardware counter profiling results of each function are the total amount of the two MPI ranks. We generate communication traces, namely the message size, the message count, the source and destination, by using the standardized PMPI interface. Figure 2 illustrates how we generate the performance measurements on hardware counters and MPI operations.
To summary, the metrics we collected include resource-based metrics and time-based metrics, as Tables 1 and 2 show. Resource-based metrics, such as number of instructions, or the number of messages sent/received, are usually a function of application configuration, and therefore deterministic. We define them as resource-based metrics because they can reflect the resource utilization of a program on the target platform. The resource-based metrics play an important role in our method. Because they can be used to determine the model functions easily, and can be used to predict large-scale performance easily. The model functions are usually a set of pre-defined functions that potentially can be used as a good approximation. Time-based metrics, such as communication time and computation time, are used to determine the coefficients of our model functions. We conduct the performance measurements on several parallelisms. The profiling results of these parallelisms are used to determine the model functions and verify the approximation.
Table 1
Resource-based metrics and how they are derived from hardware counters
Resource-based metrics
How are they derived?
Waiting time for memory
Fitting from RESOURCE_STALLS.LB(SB) counter
L1 cache access time
Fitting from MEM_LOAD_UOPS_RETIRED.L1_HIT_PS counter
L2 cache access time
Fitting from MEM_LOAD_UOPS_RETIRED.L2_HIT_PS counter
Last-level cache access time
Main memory time
Executed instructions
Fitting from INST_RETIRED.ANY_P counter
Collective MPI communication
Fitting from P and S
Point-to-point MPI communication
Fitting from S
Initialization and finalization time
Fitting from P
How are they derived?
Total communication volume
Number of processes
Problem size
Total number of kernels
Table 2
Time-based metrics used to derive the model
Time-based metrics
How are they derived?
Calculation time of each kernel
\(T\_comp_i=\frac{instructions_i \ *\ CPI_i }{ CPU frequency\ *\ P }\)
Total memory time
Ratio of non-overlapped memory time
Ratio of non-overlapped communication time
Average communication time
\(T\_comm=\sum _{i=1}^{r} T\_p2p+\sum _{i=1}^{l}T\_collective\)
Cycles per instruction
Total application time
Total computation time
Total communication time
2. Profiling validity Performance measurements may have serious run-to-run variation because of OS jitter, network contention and other factors. To ensure the profiling validity, users can repeat measurements until the variance stables.
Hardware counter profiling validity can be controlled by its overflow intervals. Our observations show that the default overflow interval, namely 2000 thousands CPU cycles can have 96% confidence intervals on identifying the functions in the program for a 100 ms application run.
3. Resource-based modeling alongside time After performance measurements, a performance model framework is generated according to Table 2 to convolute the communication and computation performance (Eq. 1). In this paper, we assume that applications are implemented following the Bulk Synchronous Parallel (BSP) programming model [20]. Follow the BSP programming model, the total runtime can be calculated by the accumulation of computation runtimes and communication runtimes, which can be found correct in most of today’s real-world HPC applications.
$$\begin{aligned} T\_app =\sum _{i=1}^{n}(T\_comp_i+BF\_mem_i*T\_mem_i) +BF\_comm*T\_comm+T\_others \end{aligned}$$
The computation part consists of a number of kernels. The computation time of a kernel can be estimated by two components. The first part is the time taken to execute the computation instructions. The second part is the time associated with fetching the data from storage to compute [21]. There is typically some degree of overlapping between these two components. We introduce a variable named memory blocking factor (\(BF\_mem_i\)), which measures the non-overlapping part for loading data from local memory. The variable i is the index of the detected functions. The accumulation of the p2p and the collective communication times is used to predict the total communication time. A variable named \(BF\_comm\) is measured to evaluate the non-overlapped communication and computation time. Below, we explain how we build the resource-based performance models, and match them with time-based metrics in detail. CPI is regarded as a comprehensive indicator for the performance of kernels, but it alone cannot help us to identify the different performance patterns of kernels since the similar CPIs of kernels can be gained from lower instruction efficiency and better memory traffic, or better instruction efficiency and poorer memory traffic.
The general idea of a resource-based performance model is to account for all key cost factors. For the computation, as Table 1, model terms, such as \(T\_stall_i\), \(T\_L1_i\), \(T\_L2_i\), \(T\_LLC_i\) and \(T\_mainmemory_i\) are derived from different types of hardware counters listed in the third column.
Take \(T\_stall_i\) term as an example, we show how to use hardware counters derived it. In an ideal case, all CPU cycles should be spent to produce useful work. However, there always exists certain part of CPU cycles is spent stalling. At hardware level, the stalling time (\(T\_stall_i\)) represents the waiting time for memory, namely the result of unavailability of processing units or data. Such scenarios often degrade the performance of an application as the number of cores increases [22]. We use the accumulation of two hardware counters, namely \(RESOURCE\_STALLS.LB\) and \(RESOURCE\_STALLS.SB\) to calculate the stall cycles. In this paper, we use five different process configurations for profiling set, and the sixth parallelism is used to verify the regression results. We do the regression for the hardware counters with the best model function in our pre-defined model function set, including one order of polynomial, exponent and logarithm [1, 2]. Because based on massive analysis and experiments, those three kinds of functions and their combinations can cover most of the situation.
Figure 3 is the model results of a kernel called laplace_sphere_wk from HOMME. Figure 3a is the accumulation of \(RESOURCE\_STALLS.LB\) and \(RESOURCE\_STALLS.SB\) (equals to \(T\_stall\)), and Fig. 3b is the number of L1 cache access time. The x-axis is the average compute amount per MPI rank. We do the regression fitting according to the average compute amount because it is easier to predict the performance for another problem size. We will explain it later in the paper. We use one-order power equation, \(a \cdot x ^b +c\), for the \(T\_stall\) and number of L1 access time. The model parameter b is positive for \(T\_stall\) while is negative for the number of L1 access time. It represents that as we assign more MPI ranks in one node, the waiting time for memory (\(T\_stall\)) decreases, and we can fetch more data from L1 cache. Such performance insights can help the users draw a conclusion that the kernel is computation driven in the present cases. According to Table 1, we can model the \(T\_mem\) and \(T\_comp\) as Fig. 3c and d shows. Through the model term \(BF\_mem\), users can obtain the non-overlapped memory time. Therefore, if users want to assign more MPI ranks in the node, they should put their effect on optimizing the memory. Because the total computation time \(T\_comp\) becomes closer to \(BF\_mem \cdot T\_mem\).
For the point-to-point (p2p) communication, we assume a linear relationship because all processes can carry on their operations in parallel. The time cost t of sending a certain number of message m of size s equals to \(t=m\cdot (a\cdot s+b)\). We model the p2p communication time t with total communication size ts as \(a\cdot ts +b\). For the collective communications, the time cost t of a broadcasts a message of size s among all processes P equals to \(t=a\cdot log(P)+b\cdot s +c\). For a sake for simplicity, we do not modeling each individual message sizes, we use an average message size among processes.
To summary, we first model the resource-based metrics separately for each function. We then match the resource-based metric of the functions with time-based metrics using the best one in our pre-defined linear fitting functions. The accumulation time of the compute kernels plus the communication time is the total estimated application runtime. The model inputs are the problem size and number of processes. The outputs are the predicted runtime of each kernel and estimated scaling resource-based metrics.
4. Scaling performance prediction Our model predicts: (1) the execution time \(T\_app\) of a given parallel application on a target scale \(P_t\) by using several applications runs with q processes, where \(q \in {\{2,..P_0\}}\), \(P_0 < P_t\); (2) the execution time \(T\_app\) of a given parallel application on a target scale \(P_k\) with a different problem size \(D_s\). Once the model coefficients are determined, we can use the equations in Table 1 to predict the runtime in Fig. 3.
Our motivation is to identify the kernels from a small problem size D, and build the performance models. We then predict the application runtime for large problem size \(D_s\) without running the application of \(D_s\).
The prediction for another problem size \(D_s\) is conducted according to the average compute amount per MPI rank. Of course, the memory resource contention plays an important role in runtime performance, especially the number of main memory access time. In this paper, we define a threshold \(E=\left\| \frac{N\_LLCmiss\_i_p}{N\_totalmem\_i_p}\right\|\) to evaluate the effectiveness for \(D_s\) runtime prediction from the harm of memory contention. \(N\_LLCmiss\_i_p\) represents the number of last-level cache misses of function i with number of process p, and \(N\_totalmem\_i_p\) is the total number of memory access. Thus by using the profiling results of the five parallelism mentioned above, if \(E \le 1e-4\), it indicts that the performance of last-level cache does not fluctuate much when assigns different compute amount to each MPI rank. Otherwise if \(E > 1e-4\), it indicts that the affect of memory contention has already revealed in the profiling cases. Thus, we have to choose suitable numbers of processes to conduct the profiling runs. We exploit the observation that the big performance fluctuation of last-level cache rarely happens. Besides, it is a common sense in HPC applications that one should choose a suitable number of processes for an application run following certain rule. For example, the number of processes should follow \(6 \cdot n^2\) when we run an atmosphere model with the spectral element dynamical core.
Take HOMME as an example, we predict the runtime of problem size ne256 (grid number: \(256 \cdot 256 \cdot 6\), vertical level: 128) on a target scale 1536 MPI ranks from ne32 (\(32 \cdot 32 \cdot 6\), vertical level: 128). We do not predict the performance per function because our observation shows that the compute amount increment of each function is inconsistent to the \(ratio=\frac{D_s}{D}\), but highly depends on its own inputs. Users with little domain knowledge are hard to estimate the increment without profiling. Therefore, we predict the computation time for the overall computation rather than functions’ time to give a overall runtime for large problem size. The average compute amount of 1536 MPI ranks (problem size ne256) is 16 grids. Thus, we can find how the resource-based metrics behave when we assign 16 grids in one MPI rank by using the models built from ne32. For the communication, we estimate the total message size among processes according to its data decomposition which can be learned from the application’s technical report and its building scripts.

3 Evaluation

The experiments are carried out on the Intel cluster in National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi of China (NSCC-Wuxi). Each NSCC-Wuxi node contains two Intel Xeon E5-2680v3 processors running at 2.5 GHz with 128 GB memory. The operating system is RedHat 6.6. The MPI version is Intel MPI 15.0, and the network is Mellanox® FDR InfiniBand. The time of I/O part isn’t taken into consideration in our experiments.
For all the experiments, the profiling overhead of our framework is 3% on average. As we know, the overhead of instrument-based profiling tools, such as Score-P [6], and Scalasca [7], usually exceeds 10%.


HOMME [15] is the dynamical core of the Community Atmosphere System Model (CAM) being developed by the National Center for Atmosphere Research (NCAR). The two cases we used are as listed in Table 3.
Table 3
Configurations of the two HOMME cases
Case name
Horizontal grids
\(32 \cdot 32 \cdot 6\)
\(256 \cdot 256 \cdot 6\)
Numerical method
Spectral element
Simulation method
J & W baroclinic instability
Vertical layer
Simulation time
2-h simulation

3.1.1 Strong scaling diagnostics

Figure 4 presents the communication performance of ne32 problem size based on six profiling and evaluation data points with the number of processes \(P=\{ 12\ 24\ 36\ 48\ 96\ 120\}\). The sub-figure on the left is the communication time, and the right one is the total communication volume. We first extrapolate these data up to 768 processes for the same problem size (ne32). In this paper, model error is defined as \((measured time - predicted time)/(measured time*100).\) The error of our model is 12% on average. The communication model is built with resource-based metric: total communication size. Point-to-point communication time consumes the most communication time followed by the communication of MPI_Allreduce. According to the right sub-figure, we can infer that the p2p time suffers from the large communication volume. The boundary updating occurs in the halo regions for each process in every time step. Every process has to communicate to its eight neighbors. The total communication volume grows with \(\sqrt{P}\). MPI_Allreduce is ranking the second in MPI time. By using our performance model, we can find that MPI_Allreduce comes from the diagnostics in \(prim\_driver\_mod.F90\), which can be turned off during application runs. Therefore, to achieve a better performance, users can focus on reducing p2p communications volume by reducing the p2p communication invoking count or reducing the size directly.
As mentioned in Sect. 2, Fig. 3 is the strong scaling computation model results. The computation model error is around 6%.

3.1.2 Week scaling diagnostics

For the large problem size ne256, our motivation is to predict its performance using the model built from ne32 instead of running and profiling ne256 cases. Ratio of total communication volume of different communication patterns is decided by domain knowledge in our model. For p2p, the increment of communication volume is \(ratio=\frac{256}{32}\) (the right sub-figure in Fig. 5), therefore the p2p time of ne256 equals to \(a \cdot (ratio \cdot size_{ne32})+b\). Similarly, the collective communication is predicted with \(a \cdot log(P) + b \cdot (ratio \cdot size_{ne32})+c\). Different from p2p communications, ratio of MPI_Bcast is 1 and for MPI_Allreduce it is \(\frac{2 \cdot 256}{32}\). Figure 5 is the communication performance of ne256. The most expensive communication kernel is still p2p communication and the maximum prediction error for large problem size is 12%. With the guidance of our model, the p2p communication should be put in the first place when tuning the code.
Figure 6 is the predicted overall application runtime of ne256. As mentioned in Sect. 2, we conduct the prediction based on the compute amount assigned to each MPI rank. The validation data points in Fig. 6 are \(P=\{512\ 768\ 1,024\ 1,536\ 2,048\ 3,072\}\). The compute amount assigned to each MPI rank is \(\{768\ 512\ 384\ 256\ 192\ 128\}\). Then we can find the time cost of the certain compute amount assigned to each MPI by using the performance model built from ne32. We can keep the model error of large problem size prediction 10.6% on average. The prediction error comes from the load imbalance caused by the ill-considered number of processes. Because ne256 has a total of \(6\cdot 256 \cdot 256=393,216\) ways of MPI parallelism in the problem. Therefore, process count \(1536=6\cdot 16\cdot 16\) in Fig. 6 has a better load balance workload thus better prediction accuracy.

3.1.3 Kernel ranking diagnostics

Usually users pay much attention to optimize the performance of kernel compute_rhs and euler_step. Because they are also the key computation parts based on the domain knowledge and they truly contain a lot of floating-point operations. However, there are five other kernels that should be taken into account. They are edgevpack, edgevunpack, laplace_sphere, divergence_sphere and vertical_remap. Function vertical_remap is embarrassingly parallel. The functions edgevpack and edgevunpack are used to pack/unpack for one or more vertical layers into an edge buffer. Kernel laplace_sphere and divergence_sphere compute the gradient after communications. Figure 7 lists the top seven time-consuming kernels at different scales. Take edgevunpack as an example, it is compute-driven when \(P<40\) processes, and its time does not decrease anymore after the number of processes is larger than 300. That is to say, we cannot find the edgevunpack function is the performance critical one at large scale if we don’t conduct the application run with over 300 processes. With the help of our performance model, we don’t need to conduct large-scale application run but can efficiently predict the performance variation of different functions and give the correct candidates for tuning at scale.

3.2 CICE

The Los Alamos sea ice model (CICE) [16] is a widely used sea ice model in the well-known CESM project [23]. The configurations are listed in Table 4.
Table 4
Configurations of the two CICE cases
Case name
Horizontal grids
\(116 \cdot 100\)
\(384 \cdot 320\)
Grid decomposition method
Simulation time
1 month

3.2.1 Strong scaling diagnostics

Function stress is the most time-consuming function, and transport_integrals is less time-consuming functions. The two functions have similar CPIs (as shown in the left sub-figure of Fig. 8). However, CPI alone cannot distinguish such performance that comes from lower instruction efficiency and better memory traffic, or better instruction efficiency and poorer memory traffic. Normally users would measure the Flops / Bytes to see whether it is a memory-driven program or a compute-driven program. Compared to the ratio of theoretical Flops / Bytes, if the measured ratio is smaller than the theoretical one, it indicates that the code is memory intensive, and then users would focus on memory optimization of stress (Table  5). However, with the help of our model, the memory blocking factor of stress scales well (\(4.2e-4\) to \(0.2e-4\) for a scale of 2 to 20 processes, while transport_integral changes from \(0.9e-4\) to \(0.3e-4\). The memory has a more obvious impact on kernel transport_integral. It is the reason that the speedup (shown in the right sub-figure of Fig. 8) of stress is better than transport_integral. By further looking up the source code, we find that stress is mainly a stencil computation with add and multiply operations which is considered having a relatively good overlap between computation and memory. Kernel transport_integral is mainly the assignment operations. Therefore, the memory impact of stress may not be an issue when scales to large number of processes.
Table 5
Theoretical flops/bytes versus measured flops/bytes
Number of cores

3.2.2 Week scaling diagnostics

Figure 9 is the predicted results for \(384 \cdot 320\) problem size using the model from \(116 \cdot 100\). In CICE, p2p communication is the key part to slow down the performance while computation scales well for a scale to 128 cores. Because p2p communication happens in boundary data exchange, and every evp sub-cycling has to communicate the data for calculating the sea ice mask.
In addition, we find that there are two functions (ice_timer_stop and ice_timer_start) do not decrease with the number of processes. These two functions are used to control the timer start and stop to measure the timing information of each function, which are not scalable. Therefore, to achieve a better performance for large-scale runs, users may turn off the timer.

3.3 OpenFOAM

OpenFOAM [17] is an open source computation fluid dynamics (CFD) solver. The test configurations are listed in Table 6. In this example, we show how we detect the load imbalance and improve its performance with our performance diagnostic framework.
Table 6
Configurations of the OpenFoam cases
Case name
Cell number
\(20 \cdot 8 \cdot 8\)
Decomposition method
Simulation time
200 steps

3.3.1 Load imbalance diagnostics

The default data decomposition is to try best to decompose the data in each dimension evenly. However, such decomposition is not always good for time-to-solution performance. For example, the default data decomposition of case motorBike using 12 MPI ranks is 3, 2, 2 in xyz directions. Its profile results show that the idle time is up to 15% of the total application runtime. According to our model, it is because in each time step the MPI ranks have to wait until all communications among three directions are done. We then change the data decomposition into 4, 3, 1 to cancel the communication with z direction which reduces 6% p2p MPI communication invoking counts. And we can achieve 15% performance improvement by changing the data decomposition with user decisions (Fig. 10).

3.3.2 Strong scaling diagnostics

With the manually decided data decomposition method, we profile the case motorBike with \(P=\{48, 64, 96, 120, 160, 200\}\). As Fig. 11 shows, the p2p communication prediction error is 13.6% at the most, and the overall model error is 7% on average. By using the user-decided data decomposition, we can achieve 25% at the most (13.7% on average) p2p communication performance improvement, and 6% perforamance benefits for the overall performance.

4 Related work

Scaling performance prediction of parallel applications has numerous prior work. There are two well-known approaches. One is using a trace-driven simulation to capture detailed performance behavior at a required level, such as MPI-SIM and BigSim [24, 25]. However, it is extremely expensive, not only in terms of time cost of the simulation, but especially in the memory requirement. Zhai et al. [26] extrapolate single-node performance by using representative process to reduce the memory requirements. Wu et al. [27] predict communication performance by extrapolating traces to large-scale application runs. Engelmann et al. [28] develop a simulator permits running an HPC application with millions of threads while observing its performance in a simulated extreme-scale HPC system using architectural models and virtual timing. However, all above works aim to accurately performance prediction but not provide scaling issues for the high-end users beforehand.
Another approach is using analytical performance modeling technique. It is well understood that an analytical performance model has the ability to provide performance insights of a complex parallel program [29, 30]. Hoefler et al. [31] use a simple six-step process to build a performance model for applications with detailed insights. However, it requires tedious code analysis and not being used to predict scalability issues. Calotoiu et al. [1] use performance models to find performance scalability bugs for parallel applications in aspects of communication and floating-point operations. This is probably the most similar work with ours. The main differences are that (1) they aim to report the kernel rankings while they do not separate the computation and communication. However, such results are easily predicted since the time cost of communication usually increases with the growing number of processes. Thus, the computation code sections that do not scale well are still hidden in the complex code while in our work, we separate the communication and computation; and (2) they use communications and floating-point operations as metrics to evaluate the large-scale performance issues, while we provide the possible causes of the potential scaling issues by separating the memory effect from computations. To better understand the fine-grained performance, Bhattacharyya et al. [32] break the whole program into several loop kernels with the assumption that kernels can have simpler performance behaviors. However, this loop-level kernel identification will introduce as many kernels to be instrumented and modeled as there are loops. This can be hundreds even for the NAS parallel benchmarks, and it is not effective to handle the complex loops and functions in real applications. Besides, it lacks the insights for resource consumption of each kernel. Chatzopoulos et al. [22] use the hardware counters to extrapolating the scalability of in-memory applications. There is a consensus that performance modeling technique can be an effective approach for understanding the resource consumption and scalability.
Other approaches focus less on general purpose models but rather on modeling for a specific purpose [3335]. Martinasso et al. [36] develop a congestion-aware performance model for PCIe communication to study the impact of PCIe topology. Mondragon et al. use both simulation and modeling technique to profile next-generation interference sources and performance of the HPC benchmarks [12]. Yang et al. [37] performance modeling the applications by running kernels on the target platform and then conduct the prediction cross-platform based on relative performance between the target platforms.

5 Conclusions

Our work demonstrates that performance modeling technique with hardware counters can be used to help users to understand the potential performance bottlenecks of large-scale runs and large problem size runs. Compared to the laboriously detailed performance models by hand, our performance model is competitive to give an earlier report on the potential performance issues as well as their causes and code positions. Compared to the traditional performance diagnostic method, our method can predict the scaling performance behaviors efficiently and effectively by profiling the application runs on small-scale parallelisms rather than profiling large-scale runs several times. Our model is currently used to conduct the predictions on the same system. The projection across architectures are not considered in the current version of our model. However, the resource-based modeling alongside time makes it easy to build a new model for different architectures. Besides, our resource-based metrics can be used as a preliminary suggestion on how a system is designed to achieve the best performance for a given application.


We would like to thank all the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. This work is partially supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (Grant Nos. 2016YFA0602100 and 2017YFA0604500), National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 91530323 and 41776010). Song Zhenya’s work is supported by AoShan Talents Cultivation Excellent Scholar Program of Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (No. 2017ASTCP-ES04), the Basic Scientific Fund for National Public Research Institute of China (No. 2016S03), and China-Korea Cooperation Project on the Trend of North-West Pacific Climate Change.
Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://​creativecommons.​org/​licenses/​by/​4.​0/​), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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