[Beowulf] performance tweaks and optimum memory configs for a Nehalem

Craig Tierney Craig.Tierney at noaa.gov
Mon Aug 10 13:20:36 PDT 2009

Joshua Baker-LePain wrote:
> On Mon, 10 Aug 2009 at 11:43am, Rahul Nabar wrote
>> On Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 7:41 AM, Mark Hahn<hahn at mcmaster.ca> wrote:
>>>> (a) I am seeing strange scaling behaviours with Nehlem cores. eg A
>>>> specific DFT (Density Functional Theory) code we use is maxing out
>>>> performance at 2, 4 cpus instead of 8. i.e. runs on 8 cores are
>>>> actually slower than 2 and 4 cores (depending on setup)
>>> this is on the machine which reports 16 cores, right?  I'm guessing
>>> that the kernel is compiled without numa and/or ht, so enumerates
>>> virtual
>>> cpus first.  that would mean that when otherwise idle, a 2-core
>>> proc will get virtual cores within the same physical core.  and that
>>> your 8c
>>> test is merely keeping the first socket busy.
>> No. On both machines. The one reporting 16 cores and the other
>> reporting 8. i.e. one hyperthreaded and the other not. Both having 8
>> physical cores.
>> What is bizarre is I tried using -np 16. THat ought to definitely
>> utilize all cores, right? I'd have expected the 16 core performance to
>> be the best. BUt no the performance peaks at a smaller number of
>> cores.
> Well, as there are only 8 "real" cores, running a computationally
> intensive process across 16 should *definitely* do worse than across 8.
> However, it's not so surprising that you're seeing peak performance with
> 2-4 threads.  Nehalem can actually overclock itself when only some of
> the cores are busy -- it's called Turbo Mode.  That *could* be what
> you're seeing.

We are seeing that the chips will overclock themselves even with all cores
running.  The percent increase in speed can be from 2-10% per node.  I have
never had a run (single node HPL) run as slow as it does when Turbo is
turned off.  However, with all the variation per node, there isn't much
of a win for large jobs as they will generally slow down to the slowest node.


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Craig Tierney (craig.tierney at noaa.gov)

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