Setting up checkpoints and restarts

SpECTRE executables can write checkpoints that save their instantaneous state to disc; the execution can be restarted later from a saved checkpoint. This feature is useful for expensive simulations that would run longer than the wallclock limits on a supercomputer system.

Executables can checkpoint when:

  1. The Phase enumeration in the Metavariables has a WriteCheckpoint phase.
  2. The WriteCheckpoint phase is run by a PhaseControl specified in the Metavariables and the input file. The two supported ways of running the checkpoint phase are:
    • with CheckpointAndExitAfterWallclock. This is the recommended phase control for checkpointing, because it writes only one checkpoint before cleanly terminating the code. This reduces the disc space taken up by checkpoint files and stops using up the allocation's CPU-hours on work that would be redone anyway after the run is restarted.
    • using VisitAndReturn(WriteCheckpoint). This is useful for writing more frequent checkpoint files, which could help when debugging a run by restarting it from just before the failure.

To restart an executable from a checkpoint file, run a command like this:

./MySpectreExecutable +restart SpectreCheckpoint000123

where the 000123 should be the number of the checkpoint to restart from.

There are a number of caveats in the current implementation of checkpointing and restarting:

  1. The same binary must be used when writing the checkpoint and when restarting from the checkpoint. If a different binary is used to restart the code, there are no guarantees that the code will restart or that the continued execution will be correct.
  2. The code must be restarted on the same hardware configuration used when writing the checkpoint — this means the same number of nodes with the same number of processors per node.
  3. Currently, there is no support for modifying any parameters during a restart. The restart only extends a simulation's runtime beyond wallclock limits.
  4. When using CheckpointAndExitAfterWallclock to trigger checkpoints, note that the elapsed wallclock time is checked only when the PhaseControl is run, i.e., at global synchronization points defined in the input file. This means that to write a checkpoint in the 30 minutes before the end of a job's queue time, the triggers in the input file must trigger global synchronizations at least once every 30 minutes (and probably 2-3 times so there is a margin for the time to write files to disc, etc). It is currently up to the user to find the balance between too-frequent synchronizations (that slow the code) and too-infrequent synchronizations (that won't allow checkpoints to be written).