3.4. Extensions

The following are AMPI extensions to the MPI standard, which will be explained in detail in this manual. All AMPI extensions to the MPI standard are prefixed with AMPI_ rather than MPI_. All extensions are available in C, C++, and Fortran, with the exception of AMPI_Command_argument_count and AMPI_Get_command_argument which are only available in Fortran.

AMPI_Migrate          AMPI_Register_pup            AMPI_Get_pup_data
AMPI_Migrate_to_pe    AMPI_Set_migratable
AMPI_Load_set_value   AMPI_Load_start_measure      AMPI_Load_stop_measure
AMPI_Iget             AMPI_Iget_wait               AMPI_Iget_data
AMPI_Iget_free        AMPI_Type_is_contiguous
AMPI_Yield            AMPI_Suspend                 AMPI_Resume
AMPI_Alltoall_medium  AMPI_Alltoall_long
AMPI_Register_just_migrated         AMPI_Register_about_to_migrate
AMPI_Command_argument_count         AMPI_Get_command_argument

3.4.1. Serialization

Some of AMPI’s primary benefits are made possible by the ability to pack and unpack the entire state of a program and transmit it over the network or write a snapshot of it to the filesystem.

In the vast majority of cases, this serialization is fully automated using a custom memory allocator, Isomalloc, which returns virtual memory addresses that are globally unique across an entire job. This means that every worker thread in the system reserves slices of virtual memory for all user-level threads, allowing transparent migration of stacks and pointers into memory. (Isomalloc requires 64-bit virtual memory addresses and support from the operating system for mapping memory to arbitrary virtual addresses.) Applications built with AMPI’s toolchain wrappers are automatically linked with Isomalloc as the active malloc implementation if the target platform supports the feature.

For systems that do not support Isomalloc and for users that wish to have more fine-grain control over which application data structures will be copied at migration time, we have added a few calls to AMPI. These include the ability to register thread-specific data with the run-time system, and the means to pack and unpack all of the thread’s data. This mode of operation requires passing -memory default at link time to disable Isomalloc’s heap interception.


Most users may skip this section unless you have specific needs.

AMPI packs up any data internal to the runtime in use by the rank, including the thread’s stack. This means that the local variables declared in subroutines in a rank, which are created on the stack, are automatically packed by the runtime system. However, without Isomalloc, the runtime has no way of knowing what other data are in use by the rank. Thus upon starting execution, a rank needs to notify the system about the data that it is going to use (apart from local variables). Even with the data registration, AMPI cannot determine what size the data is, or whether the registered data contains pointers to other places in memory. For this purpose, a packing subroutine also needs to be provided to the AMPI runtime system along with registered data. The call provided by AMPI for doing this is AMPI_Register_pup. This function takes three arguments: a data item to be transported along with the rank, the pack subroutine, and a pointer to an integer which denotes the registration identifier. In C/C++ programs, it may be necessary to use this integer value after migration completes and control returns to the rank with the function AMPI_Get_pup_data.

Once the AMPI runtime system decides which ranks to send to which processors, it calls the specified pack subroutine for that rank, with the rank-specific data that was registered with the system using AMPI_Register_pup. If an AMPI application uses Isomalloc, then the system will define the Pack/Unpack routines for the user. This section explains how a subroutine should be written for performing explicit pack/unpack.

There are three steps for transporting the rank’s data to another processor. First, the system calls a subroutine to get the size of the buffer required to pack the rank’s data. This is called the “sizing” step. In the next step, which is called immediately afterward on the source processor, the system allocates the required buffer and calls the subroutine to pack the rank’s data into that buffer. This is called the “packing” step. This packed data is then sent as a message to the destination processor, where first a rank is created (along with the thread) and a subroutine is called to unpack the rank’s data from the buffer. This is called the “unpacking” step.

Though the above description mentions three subroutines called by the AMPI runtime system, it is possible to actually write a single subroutine that will perform all the three tasks. This is achieved using something we call a “pupper”. A pupper is an external subroutine that is passed to the rank’s pack-unpack-sizing subroutine, and this subroutine, when called in different phases performs different tasks. An example will make this clear:

Suppose the user data, chunk, is defined as a derived type in Fortran90:

MODULE chunkmod
  INTEGER, parameter :: nx=4, ny=4, tchunks=16
  TYPE, PUBLIC :: chunk
      REAL(KIND=8) t(22,22)
      INTEGER xidx, yidx
      REAL(KIND=8), dimension(400):: bxm, bxp, bym, byp
  END TYPE chunk
//C Example
struct chunk{
  double t;
  int xidx, yidx;
  double bxm,bxp,bym,byp;

Then the pack-unpack subroutine chunkpup for this chunk module is written as:

SUBROUTINE chunkpup(p, c)
  USE pupmod
  USE chunkmod
  INTEGER :: p
  TYPE(chunk) :: c

  call pup(p, c%t)
  call pup(p, c%xidx)
  call pup(p, c%yidx)
  call pup(p, c%bxm)
  call pup(p, c%bxp)
  call pup(p, c%bym)
  call pup(p, c%byp)
end subroutine
//C Example
void chunkpup(pup_er p, struct chunk c){

There are several things to note in this example. First, the same subroutine pup (declared in module pupmod) is called to size/pack/unpack any type of data. This is possible because of procedure overloading possible in Fortran90. Second is the integer argument p. It is this argument that specifies whether this invocation of subroutine chunkpup is sizing, packing or unpacking. Third, the integer parameters declared in the type chunk need not be packed or unpacked since they are guaranteed to be constants and thus available on any processor.

A few other functions are provided in module pupmod. These functions provide more control over the packing/unpacking process. Suppose one modifies the chunk type to include allocatable data or pointers that are allocated dynamically at runtime. In this case, when chunk is packed, these allocated data structures should be deallocated after copying them to buffers, and when chunk is unpacked, these data structures should be allocated before copying them from the buffers. For this purpose, one needs to know whether the invocation of chunkpup is a packing one or unpacking one. For this purpose, the pupmod module provides functions fpup_isdeleting(fpup_isunpacking). These functions return logical value .TRUE. if the invocation is for packing (unpacking), and .FALSE. otherwise. The following example demonstrates this:

Suppose the type dchunk is declared as:

MODULE dchunkmod
  TYPE, PUBLIC :: dchunk
      INTEGER :: asize
      REAL(KIND=8), pointer :: xarr(:), yarr(:)
  END TYPE dchunk
//C Example
struct dchunk{
  int asize;
  double* xarr, *yarr;

Then the pack-unpack subroutine is written as:

SUBROUTINE dchunkpup(p, c)
  USE pupmod
  USE dchunkmod
  INTEGER :: p
  TYPE(dchunk) :: c

  pup(p, c%asize)

  IF (fpup_isunpacking(p)) THEN       !! if invocation is for unpacking

  pup(p, c%xarr)
  pup(p, c%yarr)

  IF (fpup_isdeleting(p)) THEN        !! if invocation is for packing

//C Example
void dchunkpup(pup_er p, struct dchunk c){
    c.xarr = (double *)malloc(sizeof(double)*c.asize);
    c.yarr = (double *)malloc(sizeof(double)*c.asize);

One more function fpup_issizing is also available in module pupmod that returns .TRUE. when the invocation is a sizing one. In practice one almost never needs to use it.

Charm++ also provides higher-level PUP routines for C++ STL data structures and Fortran90 data types. The STL PUP routines will deduce the size of the structure automatically, so that the size of the data does not have to be passed in to the PUP routine. This facilitates writing PUP routines for large pre-existing codebases. To use it, simply include pup_stl.h in the user code. For modern Fortran with pointers and allocatable data types, AMPI provides a similarly automated PUP interface called apup. User code can include pupmod and then call apup() on any array (pointer or allocatable, multi-dimensional) of built-in types (character, short, int, long, real, double, complex, double complex, logical) and the runtime will deduce the size and shape of the array, including unassociated and NULL pointers. Here is the dchunk example from earlier, written to use the apup interface:

SUBROUTINE dchunkpup(p, c)
  USE pupmod
  USE dchunkmod
  INTEGER :: p
  TYPE(dchunk) :: c

  !! no need for asize
  !! no isunpacking allocation necessary

  apup(p, c%xarr)
  apup(p, c%yarr)

  !! no isdeleting deallocation necessary


Calling MPI_ routines or accessing global variables that have been privatized by use of tlsglobals or swapglobals from inside a user PUP routine is currently not allowed in AMPI. Users can store MPI-related information like communicator rank and size in data structures to be be packed and unpacked before they are needed inside a PUP routine.

3.4.2. Load Balancing and Migration

AMPI provides support for migrating MPI ranks between nodes of a system. If the AMPI runtime system is prompted to examine the distribution of work throughout the job and decides that load imbalance exists within the application, it will invoke one of its internal load balancing strategies, which determines the new mapping of AMPI ranks so as to balance the load. Then the AMPI runtime serializes the rank’s state as described above and moves it to its new home processor.

AMPI provides a subroutine AMPI_Migrate(MPI_Info hints); for this purpose. Each rank periodically calls AMPI_Migrate. Typical CSE applications are iterative and perform multiple time-steps. One should call AMPI_Migrate in each rank at the end of some fixed number of timesteps. The frequency of AMPI_Migrate should be determined by a tradeoff between conflicting factors such as the load balancing overhead, and performance degradation caused by load imbalance. In some other applications, where application suspects that load imbalance may have occurred, as in the case of adaptive mesh refinement; it would be more effective if it performs a couple of timesteps before telling the system to re-map ranks. This will give the AMPI runtime system some time to collect the new load and communication statistics upon which it bases its migration decisions. Note that AMPI_Migrate does NOT tell the system to migrate the rank, but merely tells the system to check the load balance after all the ranks call AMPI_Migrate. To migrate the rank or not is decided only by the system’s load balancing strategy.

The AMPI runtime system could detect load imbalance by itself and invoke the load balancing strategy. However, if the application code is going to pack/unpack the rank’s data, writing the pack subroutine will be complicated if migrations occur at a stage unknown to the application. For example, if the system decides to migrate a rank while it is in initialization stage (say, reading input files), application code will have to keep track of how much data it has read, what files are open etc. Typically, since initialization occurs only once in the beginning, load imbalance at that stage would not matter much. Therefore, we want the demand to perform a load balance check to be initiated by the application.

Essentially, a call to AMPI_Migrate signifies to the runtime system that the application has reached a point at which it is safe to serialize the local state. Knowing this, the runtime system can act in several ways.

The MPI_Info object taken as a parameter by AMPI_Migrate gives users a way to influence the runtime system’s decision-making and behavior. AMPI provides two built-in MPI_Info objects for this, called AMPI_INFO_LB_SYNC and AMPI_INFO_LB_ASYNC. Synchronous load balancing assumes that the application is already at a synchronization point. Asynchronous load balancing does not assume this.

Calling AMPI_Migrate on a rank with pending send requests (i.e. from MPI_Isend) is currently not supported, therefore users should always wait on any outstanding send requests before calling AMPI_Migrate.

// Main time-stepping loop
for (int iter=0; iter < max_iters; iter++) {

  // Time step work ...

  if (iter % lb_freq == 0)

AMPI_Migrate_to_pe migrates the calling rank to the specified PE. AMPI_Migrate is preferred to users calling AMPI_Migrate_to_pe directly, because AMPI_Migrate_to_pe requires Charm++ support for anytime migration. Anytime migration requires the runtime system to buffer Charm++ broadcasts, which has a memory overhead. Consequently, users are required to run with +ampiEnableMigrateToPe in order to call this extension routine.

Note that migrating ranks around the cores and nodes of a system can change which ranks share physical resources, such as memory. A consequence of this is that communicators created via MPI_Comm_split_type are invalidated by calls to AMPI_Migrate that result in migration which breaks the semantics of that communicator type. The only valid routine to call on such communicators is MPI_Comm_free.

We also provide callbacks that user code can register with the runtime system to be invoked just before and right after migration: AMPI_Register_about_to_migrate and AMPI_Register_just_migrated respectively. Note that the callbacks are only invoked on those ranks that are about to actually migrate or have just actually migrated.

AMPI provide routines for starting and stopping load measurements, and for users to explicitly set the load value of a rank using the following: AMPI_Load_start_measure, AMPI_Load_stop_measure, AMPI_Load_reset_measure, and AMPI_Load_set_value. And since AMPI builds on top of Charm++, users can experiment with the suite of load balancing strategies included with Charm++, as well as write their own strategies based on user-level information and heuristics.

3.4.3. Checkpointing and Fault Tolerance

Using the same serialization functionality as AMPI’s migration support, it is also possible to save the state of the program to disk, so that if the program were to crash abruptly, or if the allocated time for the program expires before completing execution, the program can be restarted from the previously checkpointed state.

To perform a checkpoint in an AMPI program, all you have to do is make a call to int AMPI_Migrate(MPI_Info hints) with an MPI_Info object that specifies how you would like to checkpoint. Checkpointing can be thought of as migrating AMPI ranks to storage. Users set the checkpointing policy on an MPI_Info object’s "ampi_checkpoint" key to one of the following values: "to_file=directory_name" or "false". To perform checkpointing in memory a built-in MPI_Info object called AMPI_INFO_CHKPT_IN_MEMORY is provided.

Checkpointing to file tells the runtime system to save checkpoints in a given directory. (Typically, in an iterative program, the iteration number, converted to a character string, can serve as a checkpoint directory name.) This directory is created, and the entire state of the program is checkpointed to this directory. One can restart the program from the checkpointed state (using the same, more, or fewer physical processors than were checkpointed with) by specifying "+restart directory_name" on the command-line.

Checkpointing in memory allows applications to transparently tolerate failures online. The checkpointing scheme used here is a double in-memory checkpoint, in which virtual processors exchange checkpoints pairwise across nodes in each other’s memory such that if one node fails, that failed node’s AMPI ranks can be restarted by its buddy once the failure is detected by the runtime system. As long as no two buddy nodes fail in the same checkpointing interval, the system can restart online without intervention from the user (provided the job scheduler does not revoke its allocation). Any load imbalance resulting from the restart can then be managed by the runtime system. Use of this scheme is illustrated in the code snippet below.

// Main time-stepping loop
for (int iter=0; iter < max_iters; iter++) {

  // Time step work ...

  if (iter % chkpt_freq == 0)

A value of "false" results in no checkpoint being done that step. Note that AMPI_Migrate is a collective function, meaning every virtual processor in the program needs to call this subroutine with the same MPI_Info object. The checkpointing capabilities of AMPI are powered by the Charm++ runtime system. For more information about checkpoint/restart mechanisms please refer to the Charm++ manual: 2.3.12.

3.4.4. Memory Efficiency

MPI functions usually require the user to preallocate the data buffers needed before the functions being called. For unblocking communication primitives, sometimes the user would like to do lazy memory allocation until the data actually arrives, which gives the opportunities to write more memory efficient programs. We provide a set of AMPI functions as an extension to the standard MPI-2 one-sided calls, where we provide a split phase MPI_Get called AMPI_Iget. AMPI_Iget preserves the similar semantics as MPI_Get except that no user buffer is provided to hold incoming data. AMPI_Iget_wait will block until the requested data arrives and runtime system takes care to allocate space, do appropriate unpacking based on data type, and return. AMPI_Iget_free lets the runtime system free the resources being used for this get request including the data buffer. Finally, AMPI_Iget_data is the routine used to access the data.

int AMPI_Iget(MPI_Aint orgdisp, int orgcnt, MPI_Datatype orgtype, int rank,
              MPI_Aint targdisp, int targcnt, MPI_Datatype targtype, MPI_Win win,
              MPI_Request *request);

int AMPI_Iget_wait(MPI_Request *request, MPI_Status *status, MPI_Win win);

int AMPI_Iget_free(MPI_Request *request, MPI_Status *status, MPI_Win win);

int AMPI_Iget_data(void *data, MPI_Status status);

3.4.5. Compute Resource Awareness

AMPI provides a set of built-in attributes on all communicators to find the number of the worker thread or process that a rank is currently running on, its home worker thread, as well as the total number of worker threads and processes in the job. We define a worker thread to be a thread on which one of more AMPI ranks are scheduled. We define a process here as an operating system process, which may contain one or more worker threads. The built-in attributes are listed in the following table:




Worker thread the rank is currently running on.


OS process the rank is currently running on.


Number of worker threads in the application.


Number of OS processes in the application.


Home worker thread of the rank.

These attributes are accessible from any rank by calling MPI_Comm_get_attr, such as:

! Fortran:
integer (kind=MPI_ADDRESS_KIND) :: my_wth_ptr
integer :: my_wth, flag, ierr
call MPI_Comm_get_attr(MPI_COMM_WORLD, AMPI_MY_WTH, my_wth_ptr, flag, ierr)
my_wth = my_wth_ptr
// C/C++:
int * my_wth_ptr;
int my_wth, flag;
MPI_Comm_get_attr(MPI_COMM_WORLD, AMPI_MY_WTH, &my_wth_ptr, &flag);
my_wth = *my_wth_ptr;


The pointers retrieved for these attributes will become invalid after migration. Always copy their values into local variables if you need to access the old values after a migration.

AMPI also provides extra communicator types that users can pass to MPI_Comm_split_type: AMPI_COMM_TYPE_HOST for splitting a communicator into disjoint sets of ranks that share the same physical host, AMPI_COMM_TYPE_PROCESS for splitting a communicator into disjoint sets of ranks that share the same operating system process, and AMPI_COMM_TYPE_WTH, for splitting a communicator into disjoint sets of ranks that share the same worker thread.

3.4.6. Charm++ Interoperation

There is preliminary support for interoperating AMPI programs with Charm++ programs. This allows users to launch an AMPI program with an arbitrary number of virtual processes in the same executable as a Charm++ program that contains arbitrary collections of chares, with both AMPI ranks and chares being co-scheduled by the runtime system. We also provide an entry method void injectMsg(int n, char buf[n]) for chares to communicate with AMPI ranks. An example program can be found in examples/charm++/AMPI-interop.

3.4.7. Sequential Re-run of a Parallel Node

In some scenarios, a sequential re-run of a parallel node is desired. One example is instruction-level accurate architecture simulations, in which case the user may wish to repeat the execution of a node in a parallel run in the sequential simulator. AMPI provides support for such needs by logging the change in the MPI environment on a certain processors. To activate the feature, build AMPI module with variable “AMPIMSGLOG” defined, like the following command in charm directory. (Linking with zlib “-lz” might be required with this, for generating compressed log file.)

$ ./build AMPI netlrts-linux-x86_64 -DAMPIMSGLOG

The feature is used in two phases: writing (logging) the environment and repeating the run. The first logging phase is invoked by a parallel run of the AMPI program with some additional command line options.

$ ./charmrun ./pgm +p4 +vp4 +msgLogWrite +msgLogRank 2 +msgLogFilename "msg2.log"

In the above example, a parallel run with 4 worker threads and 4 AMPI ranks will be executed, and the changes in the MPI environment of worker thread 2 (also rank 2, starting from 0) will get logged into diskfile “msg2.log”.

Unlike the first run, the re-run is a sequential program, so it is not invoked by charmrun (and omitting charmrun options like +p4 and +vp4), and additional command line options are required as well.

$ ./pgm +msgLogRead +msgLogRank 2 +msgLogFilename "msg2.log"

3.4.8. User Defined Initial Mapping

By default AMPI maps virtual processes to processing elements in a blocked fashion. This maximizes communication locality in the common case, but may not be ideal for all applications. With AMPI, users can define the initial mapping of virtual processors to physical processors at runtime, either choosing from the predefined initial mappings below or defining their own mapping in a file.

Round Robin

This mapping scheme maps virtual processor to physical processor in round-robin fashion, i.e. if there are 8 virtual processors and 2 physical processors then virtual processors indexed 0,2,4,6 will be mapped to physical processor 0 and virtual processors indexed 1,3,5,7 will be mapped to physical processor 1.

$ ./charmrun ./hello +p2 +vp8 +mapping RR_MAP
Block Mapping

This mapping scheme maps virtual processors to physical processor in ranks, i.e. if there are 8 virtual processors and 2 physical processors then virtual processors indexed 0,1,2,3 will be mapped to physical processor 0 and virtual processors indexed 4,5,6,7 will be mapped to physical processor 1.

$ ./charmrun ./hello +p2 +vp8 +mapping BLOCK_MAP
Proportional Mapping

This scheme takes the processing capability of physical processors into account for mapping virtual processors to physical processors, i.e. if there are 2 processors running at different frequencies, then the number of virtual processors mapped to processors will be in proportion to their processing power. To make the load balancing framework aware of the heterogeneity of the system, the flag +LBTestPESpeed should also be used.

$ ./charmrun ./hello +p2 +vp8 +mapping PROP_MAP
$ ./charmrun ./hello +p2 +vp8 +mapping PROP_MAP +balancer GreedyLB +LBTestPESpeed
Custom Mapping

To define your own mapping scheme, create a file named “mapfile” which contains on each line the PE number you’d like that virtual process to start on. This file is read when specifying the +mapping MAPFILE option. The following mapfile will result in VPs 0, 2, 4, and 6 being created on PE 0 and VPs 1, 3, 5, and 7 being created on PE 1:

$ ./charmrun ./hello +p2 +vp8 +mapping MAPFILE

Note that users can find the current mapping of ranks to PEs (after dynamic load balancing) by calling AMPI_Comm_get_attr on MPI_COMM_WORLD with the predefined AMPI_MY_WTH attribute. This information can be gathered and dumped to a file for use in future runs as the mapfile.

3.4.9. Performance Visualization

AMPI users can take advantage of Charm++’s tracing framework and associated performance visualization tool, Projections. Projections provides a number of different views of performance data that help users diagnose performance issues. Along with the traditional Timeline view, Projections also offers visualizations of load imbalance and communication-related data.

In order to generate tracing logs from an application to view in Projections, link with ampicc -tracemode projections.

AMPI defines the following extensions for tracing support:

AMPI_Trace_begin                      AMPI_Trace_end

When using the Timeline view in Projections, AMPI users can visualize what each VP on each processor is doing (what MPI method it is running or blocked in) by clicking the View tab and then selecting Show Nested Bracketed User Events from the drop down menu. See the Projections manual for information on performance analysis and visualization.

AMPI users can also use any tracing libraries or tools that rely on MPI’s PMPI profiling interface, though such tools may not be aware of AMPI process virtualization.