The National Institute for Computational Sciences

General: What is file striping?

The Lustre file system is made up of an underlying set of file systems called Object Storage Targets (OST's), which are essentially a set of parallel IO servers. A file is said to be striped when read and write operations access multiple OST's concurrently. File striping is a way to increase IO performance since writing or reading from multiple OST's simultaneously increases the available IO bandwidth.

Striping will likely have little impact for the following codes:
  • Serial IO where a single processor or node performs all of the IO for an application.
  • Multiple nodes perform IO, access files at different times.
  • Multiple nodes perform IO simultaneously to different files that are small (each

Lustre allows users to set file striping at the file or directory level. As mentioned above, striping will not improve IO performance for all files. For example, in a parallel application, if each processor writes its own file then file striping will not provide any benefit. Each file will already be placed in its own OST and the application will be using OST's concurrently. File striping, in this case, could lead to a performance decrease due to contention between the processors as they try to write (or read) pieces of their files spread across multiple OST's.

For MPI applications with parallel IO, multiple processors accessing multiple OST's can provide large IO bandwidths. Using all the available OST's will provide maximum performance.

There are a few disadvantages to striping. Interactive commands such as ls -l will be slower for striped files. Additionally, striped files are more likely to suffer from data loss from a hardware failure since the the file is spread across multiple OST's.

Please see also: Scratch Space (Lustre) and I/O and Lustre Tips.