Using Pilot to run a command line benchmark job

We can use Pilot to run a command line program to do a quick benchmark, like running dd to do a quick I/O performance benchmark. This can be done easily by using Pilot’s command line interface: the bench program.

Let’s use dd as a sample. It is a common practice to use dd to do a quick measurement of the throughput of an I/O device, such as:

dd if=/dev/zero of=/mnt/testdev/io_test_file bs=1m count=100

The output on a Linux system would be like:

1+0 records in
1+0 records out
1048576 bytes (1.0 MB) copied, 0.00188192 s, 557 MB/s

On Mac OS X it would be a little different:

10+0 records in
10+0 records out
10485760 bytes transferred in 0.015194 secs (690127811 bytes/sec)

Here we have two options. Option 1 is to pass the round duration to Pilot; Option 2 is to pass the throughput to Pilot. Both options can give you the measured throughput along with a desired CI width. Option 1 is better because the round duration is related to the I/O amount. Pilot will do rounds using different I/O amounts in order to figure out the duration of warm up and cool down phases, and this can give you a more precise result using shorter time. With Option 2 Pilot can only get a collection of throughput samples and will not be able to do linear analysis on the I/O amount and duration; this makes it slower to reach a desired width of CI.

Option 1: Analyzing the Round Duration

We need to extract the duration of a benchmark round. A simple wrapper script can do that:

dd if=/dev/zero of=$OUTPUT_FILE bs=1m count=$IO_COUNT 2>&1 | \
    grep "bytes transferred" | \
    sed "s/^.*transferred in \([\.0-9][\.0-9]*\) secs.*/\1/g"

(this file can be found at examples/benchmark_dd/

Then we can use Pilot’s command line program bench to run it:

bench run_program -d 0 --wps -w 1,5000 -- ./ /tmp/io_benchmark %WORK_AMOUNT%

If you just build Pilot from the source code and haven’t installed it yet, the bench program should be located in build/cli/bench.

The option run_program is a command that tells bench to run a program as designated from the command line. -d 0 sets the column of the duration. bench expects the output of the workload program to be Comma Separated Values (CSV). Since our workload only prints one number as the duration, it is the 0th column so we pass -d 0 to bench. --wps enables the WPS analysis that can detect warm-up and cool-down phases automatically. See the Pilot paper and manual for more information about different analytical methods. WPS works well and should be the default choice for such kind of command line benchmark. -w 1,5000 set the valid range of work amount for running this workload. We are telling Pilot that it is OK to try to run this workload using to do 1 MB to 5000 MB I/O; Pilot will start from a small value and use many heuristics to pick the optimal work amount, trying to finish the workload and getting a statistical valid result fast. -- indicates the end of options for Pilot and the beginning of the workload program. All the rest of the command line will be used to run the workload program, and you can pass whatever parameters you need. We can see that we pass the macro %WORK_AMOUNT% to the workload as the I/O count. Pilot will substitute that macro with the calculated work amount for running each round of workload.

For detailed information about Pilot Bench’s output, see Interpreting the benchmark output.

Option 2: Analyzing the Throughput Directly

In Option 2, we are not going to use the very handy WPS method, but are only feeding a series of throughput that are calculated by dd into Pilot. Because of the missing of round duration information,n Pilot wouldn’t be able to control the I/O amount of each round, thus we will have to use a fix I/O amount for each round. Now it is up to the user to decide whether the I/O amount is large enough so that each round is dominated by the stable phase, not the warm up or cool down phase.

The new is only different to the previous in that we now extract throughput:


dd if=/dev/zero of=$OUTPUT_FILE bs=1m count=$IO_COUNT 2>&1 | \
    grep "bytes transferred" | \
    sed "s/^.*secs (\([\.0-9][\.0-9]*\) bytes.*/\1/g"

(this file can be found at examples/benchmark_dd_no_wps/

Then we can use Pilot’s command line program bench to run it:

bench run_program --pi "throughput,MB/s,0,1,1" -- ./ IO_SIZE

The option --pi specifies the information of the Performance Index we want to measure. The parameter is in this format:

Format:     name,unit,column,type,must_satisfy:...
name:       name of the PI, can be empty
unit:       unit of the PI, can be empty (the name and unit are used only for display
column:     the column of the PI in the csv output of the client program (0-based)
type:       0 - ordinary value (like time, bytes, etc.), 1 - ratio (like throughput,
speed). Setting the correct type ensures Pilot uses the correct mean
calculation method.
must_satisfy: 1 - if this PI's CI must satisfy the requirement of CI width; 0 (or
missing) - record data only, no need to satisfy
more than one PI's information can be separated by colon (:)

You can run ./bench run_program --help anytime to get this help information.

You should replace IO_SIZE with something like 5000 to 10,000 MBs at least, depending on your storage device’s speed. There is no general rule for specifying IO_SIZE because devices can be very different, but the rule of thumb is that each round should not be shorter than 10 seconds. You can see it is much easier to just use Option 1 and let Pilot take care of setting the I/O work amount for each round.