10.3. The role of PMIx and PRRTE

Open MPI uses two external packages for its run-time system support: PMIx and PRRTE.


Both of these packages were originally developed as an internal part of Open MPI. Over time, they split off into independent packages so that they could be used outside of an Open MPI-specific environment.

Both PMIx and PRRTE have many configure- and run-time options. Open MPI attempts to hide most of these details from the end user, and instead present a unified “everything is Open MPI” interface. Open MPI will translate configuration directives to PMIx and PRRTE as relevant, hiding such minutia from the end-user.

This is an intentional design decision on the part of the Open MPI developer community: HPC and MPI are complicated enough. We do not want to burden the average end user with needing to understand which abstractions and configuration options belong to Open MPI vs. PMIx vs. PRRTE.

Advanced users can peek into the PMIx and PRRTE internals and tweak additional configuration settings if necessary, but we hope that that will rarely be necessary.

10.3.1. PMIx

The Process Management Interface for Exascale (PMIx) package is used by Open MPI for the management communication and coordination of MPI processes with a back-end run-time system.

The “back-end run-time system” may range from a low-infrastructure system that simply uses ssh to remotely execute commands (with no other infrastructure) to an environment with a full-featured resource manager and scheduler such as Slurm, PBS/Pro/Torque, or LSF.

PMIx presents a unified API that hides many of the complexities of communication with these back-end run-time environments. Open MPI uses the PMIx API to discover, communicate, and coordinate with any supported back-end run-time system without needing to know the intimiate details of that system.

10.3.2. PRRTE

The PMIx Reference Runtime Environment is, as its name implies, a reference run-time environment that utilizes the PMIx API. It mainly provides run-time environment infrastructure for environments that do not natively have them. In practical terms, this typically means providing infrastructure for non-scheduled environments that have no concept of distributed scheduling, file staging, remote stdout/stderr redirection, and only have ssh to execute commands on remote nodes.

Open MPI uses PRRTE to deal with the practical issues of the back-end run-time environment such as launching, monitoring, killing, and reaping remote processes.