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Using hugepages

Memory is managed in blocks known as pages. The default size of a page is 4KB. CPUs have a built-in memory management unit that manages a list of these pages in hardware. The Translation Lookaside Buffer (TLB) is a small hardware cache of virtual-to-physical page mappings. If the virtual address passed in a hardware instruction can be found in the TLB, the mapping can be determined quickly. If not, a TLB miss occurs, and the system falls back to slower, software-based address translation, resulting in performance issues.

Reasons to use hugepages

Since the size of the TLB is fixed in the hardware, a way to reduce the chance of a TLB miss is to increase the page size. Using very large page sizes can improve system performance by reducing the amount of system resources required to access page table entries by reducing the number of virtual to physical address translations.

Hugepages can be beneficial

  • for MPI applications, map the static data and/or heap onto huge pages
  • for applications using shared memory that are concurrently registered with high-speed network drivers for remote communication
  • to improve memory performance for common access patterns on large data sets
  • for applications doing heavy I/O
  • for SHMEM applications, map the static data and/or private heap onto huge pages
  • for applications written in Unified Parallel C and other languages based on the PGAS programming model, to map the static data and/or private heap onto huge pages

How to use hugepages

To use hugepages load the module corresponding to the page size you wish to use. For example, to use a page size of 2 megabytes:

$ module load craype-hugepages2M

For x86 processors, which is the architecture of the LUMI CPUs, the supported page sizes are 4KB, 2MB and 1GB. Once the module is loaded, you can compile your application as usual using the compiler wrappers.

cc -o myprogram source.c
CC -o myprogram source.cpp
ftn -o myprogram source.f90

The hugepages module should also be loaded in your job script when running your application.


module load craype-hugepages2M

srun ./myprogram

If you execute multiple applications in your job, but only some of them can benefit from using hugepages, export the HUGETLB_RESTRICT_EXE environment variable in your job script to limit the usage of hugepages only to certain applications.

export HUGETLB_RESTRICT_EXE=myprogram1:myprogram2