[Beowulf] Problems with Dell M620 and CPU power throttling

Don Holmgren djholm at fnal.gov
Fri Aug 30 08:23:21 PDT 2013

It might be worth fooling a bit with the cpufreq settings, down in


(where X=cpu#, one per core) To prevent non-thermal throttling, you can do
for each core

     echo userspace > scaling_governor
     cat scaling_max_freq
     echo 2400000 > scaling_setspeed

(where substitute the max_freq reported for the 2400000).  For this to work you 
need the specific cpufreq driver for your processor loaded.  For our (non-Dell) 
SB servers it's acpi_cpufreq.  In RedHat, the cpuspeed service loads the 
relevent drivers, not sure if there is a similar service in other distros.

The above will lock the the cores at the max_freq, although if they get too hot 
they will still throttle down in speed.  There are statistics available on 
frequency changes from thermal throttling in


although I haven't used them, so I'm not sure about their functionality.

If you do a

      modprobe cpufreq_stats

then a new directory


will show up that has statistics about cpu speed changes.  I'm not sure whether 
thermal throttling changes will also show here or not.    On one of our large 
Opteron clusters, we had a handful of nodes with somewhat similar slowdown 
problems as you are seeing on your SB's.   We now lock their frequencies, and we 
monitor /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/stats/total_trans (which give total 
number of speed changes), alarming when total_trans is non-zero.

Don Holmgren

On Fri, 30 Aug 2013, Bill Wichser wrote:

> Since January, when we installed an M620 Sandybridge cluster from Dell,
> we have had issues with power and performance to compute nodes.  Dell
> apparently continues to look into the problem but the usual responses
> have provided no solution.  Firmware, BIOS, OS updates all are fruitless.
> The problem is that the node/CPU is power capped.  We first detected
> this with the STREAM benchmark, a quick run, which shows memory
> bandwidth around 2000 instead of the normal 13000 MB/s.  When the CPU is
> in the C0 state, this drops to around 600.
> The effect appears randomly across the entire cluster with 5-10% of the
> nodes demonstrating some slower performance.  We don't know what
> triggers this.  Using "turbostat" we can see that the GHz of the cores
> is >= 1 in most cases, dropping to about 0.2 in some of the worst cases.
>  Looking at the power consumption by either the chassis GUI or using
> "impitool sdr list" we see that there is only about 80 watts being used.
> We run the RH 6.x release and are up to date with kernel/OS patches.
> All firmware is up to date.  Chassis power is configured as
> non-redundant.  tuned is set for performance.  Turbo mode is
> on/hyperthreading is off/performance mode is set in BIOS.
> A reboot does not change this problem.  But a power cycle returns the
> compute node to normal again.  Again, we do not know what triggers this
> event.  We are not overheating the nodes.  But while applications are
> running, something triggers an event where this power capping takes effect.
> At this point we remain clueless about what is causing this to happen.
> We can detect the condition now and have been power cycling the nodes in
> order to reset.
> If anyone has a clue, or better yet, solved the issue, we'd love to hear
> the solution!
> Thanks,
> Bill

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