11.5. Building fully-static PMIx applications

11.5.1. Is fully-static really what you need?

No one ends up in this documentation section by accident.

If you are reading this text, it is likely because you are looking to solve a problem, and fully-static applications sound like the right answer. There are two common problems that people think that fully-static applications will solve:

  1. Applications fail to launch because dependent shared libraries are not found at run-time.

  2. Filesystem performance when launching at scale is terrible.

If either of these are your problems, the PMIx community strongly encourages you to use other mechanisms to fix the problem: fully-static applications are possible, but are sub-optimal for other reasons.

The following sections discuss the above problems. Finding dependent shared libraries at run-time

If you are running into problems finding shared libraries at run time — particularly on nodes that are remote from where you have invoked your launcher — your best bet is to set LD_LIBRARY_PATH (or equivalent mechanism) properly on all nodes (including remote nodes).

This is an involved topic, but even so, it is generally simpler to solve this problem than creating and maintaining static builds. Improving filesystem performance at scale

Prior to v4.2.0, PMIx compiled a large number of plugins as individual dynamic shared objects (DSOs) — i.e., individual files in the filesystem. Many of these DSOs would be opened by each application process at run time.

This could cause filesystem congestion, particularly when the application is installed on a network filesystem and a large job is launched: many nodes will simultaneously communicate with the file server(s), and potentially need to transfer a large number of small(ish) files.

Starting with v4.2.0, by default, PMIx’s plugins are no longer built as DSOs. As such, PMIx typically only opens a small number of shared libraries at launch time. Even if PMIx is installed on a network filesystem, these libraries are likely to be cached on nodes over time, and therefore generate a fairly small amount network filesystem traffic when PMIx-based jobs are launched.

In short: PMIx latest’s impact on network filesystems is greatly diminished compared to prior versions. Compiling fully-static applications to eliminate the open-every-DSO-file-at-launch-time behavior is no longer necessary. Other reasons fully-static applications are bad

Here are a few other reasons that fully-static applications are sub-optimal:

  1. When applications link all of their dependencies statically, the operating system cannot share code between multiple copies of the process.

    For example, if you launch N copies of your fully-statically-linked application on a node, it will consume (N * size_of_the_application) bytes of RAM. Alternately, launching N copies of a dynamically-linked MPI application — where each of the copies have the same dependent libraries — will only load each shared dependent library into RAM once.

    In other words: using dynamic linking saves memory.

  2. If you disable PMIx’s dlopen functionality (which is necessary to create fully-static MPI applications), you may lose access to functionality that is dependent on third-party libraries that cannot operate (or are not provided) as static libraries. Note that your application also cannot use a memory manager (such as most MPI libraries do by default).

Are you convinced yet? Please try to avoid building fully-static applications if at all possible.

11.5.2. Building fully-static PMIx-based applications


If, after reading all of the above, you are still of the mind that you want to build fully-static applications, be aware that fully static linking is not for the meek, and it is not recommended. But it is possible, with some caveats.

  1. You must have static libraries available for everything to which your program links. This includes PMIx; you must have used the --enable-static option to PMIx’s configure or otherwise have available the static versions of the PMIx library.


    Some Linux distributions may not have static versions of popular Linux libraries by default (e.g., libnuma), or require additional RPMs to be installed to get the equivalent static libraries.

  2. Your application must have been built without a memory manager. For example, this means that Open MPI must have been configured with the --without-memory-manager flag.


    Not including memory manager support can lead to lower performance when using OS-bypass networks.

This is how to configure PMIx to build fully-static libraries on Linux:

shell$ ./configure --disable-dlopen \
    --enable-static --disable-shared ...

The --disable-shared flag is optional; it will prevent PMIx from also building shared libraries.

Alternatively, you could build PMIx with as many static libraries as possible, but still preserve dlopen functionality by omitting the --disable-dlopen flag:

shell$ ./configure --enable-static --disable-shared ...

This gives you a mostly static build of PMIx, but has the advantage of preserving at least some dynamic libraries. Including whole archives

Some systems may have additional constraints about their support libraries that require additional steps to produce working fully-static PMIx-based applications. For example, any library that has its own run-time plugin system (i.e., that opens dynamically shared objects (“DSOs”) at run time) will have additional complications in producing fully-static builds.

In such cases, you generally want to run pmixcc ... --showme to see the compiler / linker commands that PMIx’s wrapper commands will use, and then augment those commands with linker arguments for the static versions of the DSO plugins that you will need at run time.

For example, if you have libfoo.a that dynamically loads plugin.so at run time, you’ll need to have a plugin.a and — assuming the GNU linker — add arguments similar to the following:

  • -static: Tell the linker to generate a static executable.

  • -Wl,--whole-archive -lfoo /path/to/plugin.a -Wl,--no-whole-archive: Tell the linker to include the entire foo library and the entire plugin.a archive in the executable.

You can either add these arguments on the command line manually, or you can modify the default behavior of the wrapper compilers to hide this complexity from end users (but be aware that if you modify the wrapper compilers’ default behavior, all users will be creating static applications!).