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Parallel netCDF (PnetCDF) is a popular library used in many scientific applications to store scientific datasets. It provides high-performance parallel I/O while maintaining file-format compatibility with Unidata's netCDF. Array variables comprise the bulk of the data in a netCDF dataset, and for accesses to large regions of single array variables, PnetCDF attains very high performance. However, the current PnetCDF interface only allows access to one array variable per call. If an application instead accesses a large number of small-sized array variables, this interface limitation can cause significant performance degradation, because high end network and storage systems deliver much higher performance with larger request sizes. Moreover, the record variables data is stored interleaved by record, and the contiguity information is lost, so the existing MPI-IO collective I/O optimization can not help. This paper presents a new mechanism for PnetCDF to combine multiple I/O operations for better I/O performance. This mechanism can be used in a new function that takes arguments for reading/writing multiple array variables, allowing application programmers to explicitly access multiple array variables in a single call. It can also be used in the implementation of asynchronous I/O functions, so that the combination is carried out implicitly, without changes to the application. Our performance results demonstrate significant improvement using well-known application benchmarks.
Date of Conference: Aug. 31 2009-Sept. 4 2009