Running MPI Applications

On Fram users have access to two MPI implementations:

  • OpenMPI is provided by the foss module, e.g., module load foss/2017a
  • Intel MPI environment is provided by the intel module, e.g., module load intel/2017a

Slurm is used as the queuing system and the resource manager, and the native way to start MPI applications with Slurm is to use the srun command. On the other hand, both MPI implementations provide their own mechanisms to start application in the form of the mpirun command.

One of the most important factors when running large MPI jobs is mapping of the MPI ranks to compute nodes, and binding (or pinning) them to CPU cores. Neglecting to do that, or doing that in an suboptimal way can severely affect the performance. In this regard there are some differences when it comes to running applications compiled against the two supported MPI environments.


On systems with Mellanox InfiniBand, OpenMPI is the implementation recommended by Mellanox due to it's support for the HPCX communication libraries.


With OpenMPI, srun is the preferred way to start MPI programs due to good integration with the Slurm scheduler environment:

srun -n <num ranks> /path/to/openmpi_app

Executed as above, srun uses Slurm's default binding and mapping algorithms (currently --cpu_bind=cores), which can be changed using either command-line parameters, or environment variables. Parameters specific to OpenMPI can be set using environment variables.

Note that with srun it is necessary to explicitly specify the number of ranks to start with the -n parameter. Otherwise Slurm will by default start one rank per compute node.


For those familiar with the OpenMPI tools, MPI applications can also be started using the mpirun command:

mpirun /path/to/openmpi_app

By default, mpirun binds ranks to cores, and maps them by socket. Please refer to the documentation if you need to change those settings. Note that -report-bindings is a very useful option if you want to inspect the individual MPI ranks to see on which nodes, and on which CPU cores they run.

Intel MPI


At this moment, for performance reasons mpirun is the preferred way to start applications that use Intel MPI:

mpirun /path/to/intelmpi_app

In the above, app is subject to mpirun's internal mapping and binding algorithms. Intel's mpirun uses it's own default binding settings, which can be modified either by command line parameters, or by environment variables. Special care must be taken when running hybrid MPI-OpenMP cores. If this is your case, please refer to the documentation regarding Interoperability between MPI and OpenMP.


With srun, Intel MPI applications can be started as follows:

srun -n <num ranks> --mpi=pmi2 /path/to/app

Note that you must explicitly specify --mpi=pmi2.

We have observed that in the current setup some applications compiled against Intel MPI and executed with srun achieve inferior performance compared to the same code executed with mpirun. Until this is resolved, we suggest using mpirun to start applications.

Final remarks

Note that when executing mpirun from within a Slurm allocation there is no need to provide neither the number of MPI ranks (-np), nor the host file (-hostfile): those are obtained automatically by mpirun. When using srun one has to explicitly add the -n <num ranks> parameter, otherwise Slurm will by default start one rank per compute node.

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