Formal Definitions and Performance Comparison of Consistency Models for Parallel File Systems

Chen Wang, Kathryn Mohror, Marc Snir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The semantics of HPC storage systems are defined by the consistency models to which they abide. Storage consistency models have been less studied than their counterparts in memory systems, with the exception of the POSIX standard and its strict consistency model. The use of POSIX consistency imposes a performance penalty that becomes more significant as the scale of parallel file systems increases and the access time to storage devices, such as node-local solid storage devices, decreases. While some efforts have been made to adopt relaxed storage consistency models, these models are often defined informally and ambiguously as by-products of a particular implementation. In this work, we establish a connection between memory consistency models and storage consistency models and revisit the key design choices of storage consistency models from a high-level perspective. Further, we propose a formal and unified framework for defining storage consistency models and a layered implementation that can be used to easily evaluate their relative performance for different I/O workloads. Finally, we conduct a comprehensive performance comparison of two relaxed consistency models on a range of commonly seen parallel I/O workloads, such as checkpoint/restart of scientific applications and random reads of deep learning applications. We demonstrate that for certain I/O scenarios, a weaker consistency model can significantly improve the I/O performance. For instance, in small random reads that are typically found in deep learning applications, session consistency achieved a 5x improvement in I/O bandwidth compared to commit consistency, even at small scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-951
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2024


  • Computational modeling
  • Consistency model
  • Deep learning
  • Load modeling
  • parallel file system
  • parallel i/o
  • Program processors
  • Standards
  • storage consistency
  • Synchronization
  • Writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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