Re: best practice of using parallel hdf5

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Hi Eh,
        I'll pipe up here, since this is more HDF5 specific...

On Nov 27, 2006, at 8:24 PM, Eh Tan wrote:

First, I would like to thank the HDF5 developers for providing the
excellent library and documentation.

We use parallel hdf5 to store the results of our simulation. Our
simulation code is an MPI application and is routinely run with a few
hundreds of processors. The simulation is time consuming and can take
weeks to finish. Currently we save the results in one file (i.e., every
processor write to the same file), one datagroup, one dataset, with
unlimited time dimension. Before saving each record, the time dimension
is extended.

Recently, we had a hardware problem on one of the computation node, and the simulation crashed. As a result, our hdf5 file was corrupted, and we lost all the results of that simulation. This lead me to wondering what the best practice is of using parallel hdf5. I hope the list can provide
some guidance.

In the event of system crash, how can I prevent the file corruption and
how can I minimize the loss of data?
Should I flush the buffer after each output, or close the dataset after each output, or save each record in a new datagroup, or save each record
in a new file? How much of data loss would I expect in the worst
scenario (e.g., the system crashes during disk I/O)?

Generally, it's a good idea to call H5Fflush (or the equivalent netCDF API call) after each major "phase" of writing to the file. This will flush metadata changes out to the disk. However, it is still possible that incremental changes may be made to the file as metadata is evicted from the HDF5 internal caches that would create a "corrupt" file if the rest of the changes don't make it into the file. Flushing too often may create additional I/O though, so you'll need to find a balance that's appropriate for your application.

We have some funding from Sandia National Lab to improve this situation by essentially "journaling" the changes to the file, which will always leave the file in a known "good" state, although possibly missing some of the last metadata changes. I expect that this will take 6-8 months to deliver, however, so it's not a short-term solution.



Eh Tan
Staff Scientist
Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics
2750 E. Washington Blvd. Suite 210
Pasadena, CA 91107
(626) 395-1693

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