10.1. OpenFabrics Interfaces (OFI) / Libfabric support

10.1.1. What is OFI / Libfabric?

“OFI” stands for the OpenFabrics Interfaces, which are implemented in the libfabric library. These two terms are typically used interchangeably.

Open MPI supports many different underlying networks via Libfabric, including (but not limited to):


  • Cisco usNIC

  • Cray uGNI

  • Cornelius Networks Omni-Path

In general, the OFI-based components in Open MPI will auto-select themselves as appropriate at run time.

That being said, additional questions are available in this FAQ section to provide more information about specific OFI-based network types and support.

10.1.2. What are the Libfabric (OFI) components in Open MPI?

Open MPI has three main components for Libfabric (a.k.a., OFI) communications:

  1. ofi MTL: Available since Open MPI v1.10, this component is used with the cm PML and is used for two-sided MPI communication (e.g., MPI_SEND and MPI_RECV).

The ofi MTL requires that the Libfabric provider support reliable datagrams with ordered tagged messaging (specifically: FI_EP_RDM endpoints, FI_TAGGED capabilities, and FI_ORDER_SAS ordering).

  1. ofi BTL: Available since Open MPI v4.0.0, this component is used for one-sided MPI communications (e.g., MPI_PUT). The ofi BTL requires that the Libfabric provider support reliable datagrams, RMA and atomic operations, and remote atomic completion notifications (specifically: FI_EP_RDM endpoints, FI_RMA and FI_ATOMIC capabilities, and FI_DELIVERY_COMPLETE op flags).

  2. usnic BTL: This BTL is used exclusively with Cisco usNIC-based networks. It will auto-select itself over the other OFI-based components when run with Cisco usNIC-based networks.

See each Lifabric provider man page (e.g., fi_sockets(7)) to understand which provider will work for each of the above-listed Open MPI components. Some providers may require to be used with one of the Libfabric utility providers; for example, the verbs provider needs to be paired with utility provider ofi_rxm to provide reliable datagram endpoint support (verbs;ofi_rxm).

Both components have MCA parameters to specify the Libfabric provider(s) that will be included/excluded in the selection process. For example:

shell$ mpirun --mca pml cm --mca mtl ofi --mca mtl_ofi_provider_include psm2 mpi_hello

In addition, each component has specific parameters for each one; see ompi_info --param <framework> <component> -level 9 for a full list. For example:

shell$ ompi_info --param mtl ofi --level 9

For more information refer to the Libfabric web site.

10.1.3. Ompi-Path: How can the multi-rail settings be adjusted if multiple HFI (Host Fabric Interface) cards are installed on the system?

Multi-Rail feature allows a process to use multiple HFIs to transfer a message to improve message bandwidth. The PSM2 library handles the support for multi-rail which is off by default. The multi-rail settings can be modified using the following environment variables:

  • PSM2_MULTIRAIL=[0,1,2] ]: 0=Disabled, 1=Enable across all HFIs in the system, 2=Enable multi-rail within a NUMA node.

  • PSM2_MULTIRAIL_MAP=unit:port,unit:port...

The variables above may be included in the mpirun command line or in the environment. For example:

shell$ mpirun -mca mtl [psm2|ofi] -x PSM2_MULTIRAIL=1 -n 2 -H host1,host2 ./a.out


When using the OFI MTL, please ensure that the PSM2 OFI provider is used for communication with OPA devices.

10.1.4. Omni-Path: What is Multi-HFI support in PSM2 and how does it differ from multi-rail?

Multi-HFI support is intended to describe the use of multiple HFIs in a system among MPI ranks local to a node in order to load-balance the hardware resources. It differs from the Multi-Rail feature, which is intended to allow a single process to use all HFIs in the system. For an MPI job with multiple processes on a single node, the default PSM2 behavior depends on the affinity settings of the MPI process. The PSM2 library defaults to using the HFI (Host Fabric Interface) that is in the same NUMA node as that of the MPI process.

Users can restrict access to a single HFI using the environment variable:

  • HFI_UNIT=N: valid values of N are 0,1,2 and 3

More details can be found on the PSM2 Programmer’s Guide and the Omni-Path Fabric Performance Tuning Guide.

Please also see the full Omni-Path documentation for more details.