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Argonne Leadership
Computing Facility

Job Scheduling and Execution

Documentation / Tools

  • The PBS "BigBook" - This is really excellent. I highly suggest you download it and search through it when you have questions. Can be found at the link above or online.
  • Cobalt qsub options to PBS qsub options - shows how to map cobalt command line options to PBS command line options. Can be found at the link above.
  • qsub2pbs - Installed on Theta and Cooley. Pass it a Cobalt command line and it will convert it to a PBS command line. Add the --directives option and it will output an executable script. Note that it outputs -l select=system=None. You would need to change the None to whatever system you wanted to target (polaris, aurora, etc).


There is one primary submission production queue and two debug queues on Polaris. We ask that all users follow good etiquette and be kind to one another.

Debugging Queues

There are two execution debug queues.

  • debug
    • 1 <= node count <= 2
    • 10 mins. <= walltime <= 1 hr
    • limit of one (1) job running per-user
    • limit of one (1) job queued per-user
    • maximum of 8 nodes in use by this queue at any given time
  • debug-scaling
    • 1 <= node count <= 10
    • 10 mins. <= walltime <= 1 hr
    • limit of one (1) job running/accruing/queued per-user

Production Queues

There is a single submission queue for the entire system called "prod". This is a routing queue that routes jobs to one of the following 6 execution queues based on the project allocation balance, job size, and duration. The following limits apply to all the execution queues:

  • limit of ten (10) jobs running/accruing per-project
  • limit of hundred (100) jobs queued (not accruing score) per-project

Execution Queues

  • small
    • 10 <= node count <= 24
    • 30 mins. <= walltime <= 6 hrs.
  • medium
    • 25 <= node count <= 49
    • 30 mins. <= walltime <= 12 hrs.
  • large
    • 50 <= node count <= 496
    • 30 mins. <= walltime <= 24 hrs.
  • backfill-small
    • low priority, negative project balance
    • 10 <= node count <= 24
    • 30 mins. <= walltime <= 6 hrs.
  • backfill-medium
    • low priority, negative project balance
    • 25 <= node count <= 49
    • 30 mins. <= walltime <= 12 hrs.
  • backfill-large
    • low priority, negative project balance
    • 50 <= node count <= 496
    • 30 mins. <= walltime <= 24 hrs.

Note: You cannot submit to the execution queues directly, you can only submit to the routing queue "prod".

Job Priority

As with all Argonne Leadership Computing Facility production systems, job priority in the queue is based on several criteria:

  1. positive balance of your project
  2. size (in nodes) of the job, larger jobs receive higher priority
  3. the type of project (e.g. INCITE, ALCC, or discretionary)
  4. job duration - shorter duration jobs will accumulate priority more quickly, so it is best to specify the job run time as accurately as possible


At a high level, getting computational tasks run on systems at ALCF is a two step process:

  1. You request and get allocated resources (compute nodes) on one or more of the systems. This is accomplished by interacting with the job scheduler / workload manager. In the ALCF we use PBS Professional.
  2. You execute your tasks on those resources. This is accomplished in your job script by interacting with various system services (MPI, OpenMP, the HPE PALS job launch system, etc.)

Our documentation is organized in two sections aligned with the two steps described above.

Obtaining and managing compute resources at ALCF

Definitions and notes

chunk: A set of resources allocated as a unit to a job. Specified inside a selection directive. All parts of a chunk come from the same host. In a typical MPI (Message-Passing Interface) job, there is one chunk per MPI process.

vnode: A virtual node, or vnode, is an abstract object representing a host or a set of resources which form a usable part of an execution host. This could be an entire host, or a nodeboard or a blade. A single host can be made up of multiple vnodes. Each vnode can be managed and scheduled independently. Each vnode in a complex must have a unique name. Vnodes on a host can share resources, such as node-locked licenses. PBS operates on vnodes. A vnode can, and in ALCF often will, represent an entire host, but it doesn't have to. For instance, there is a mode on Polaris where we could have each physical host look like four vnodes, each with 16 threads, 1/4 of the RAM and one A100.

ncpus: In ALCF, given the way we configure PBS, this equates to a hardware thread. For example, Polaris has a single socket with a 32 core CPU, each with two threads, so PBS reports that as ncpus=64.

ngpus: The number of GPUs. On Polaris, this will generally be four. However, if we enable Multi Instance GPU (MIG) mode and use cgroups it could be as high as 28.

The basics

If you are an existing ALCF user and are familiar with Cobalt, you will find the PBS commands very similar though the options to qsub are quite different. Here are the "Big Four" commands you will use:

  1. qsub - request resources (compute nodes) to run your job and start your script/executable on the head node.
  2. qstat - check on the status of your request
  3. qalter - update your request for resources
  4. qdel - cancel an uneeded request for resources

qsub - submit a job to run

  • Users Guide, Section 2, page UG-11 and Reference Guide Sec 2.59, page RG-214

The single biggest difference between Cobalt and PBS is the way you select resources when submitting a job. In Cobalt, every system had its own Cobalt server and you just specified the number of nodes you wanted (-n). With PBS, we are planning on running a single "PBS Complex" which means there will be a single PBS server for all systems in the ALCF and you need to specify enough constraints to get your job to run on the resources you want/need. One advantage of this is that getting resources from two different systems or "co-scheduling" is trivially possible.

Resource Selection and Job Placement

Section RG-217 Requesting Resources and Placing jobs

Resources come in two flavors:

  • Job Wide: Walltime is the most common example of a job wide resource. You use the -l option to specify job wide resources, i.e. -l walltime=06:00:00. All the resources in the job have the same walltime.
  • -l <resource name>=<value>[,<resource name>=<value> ...]
  • Chunks: (see the definition above) This is how you describe what your needs are to run your job. You do this with the -l select= syntax. In the ALCF, every node has a resource called system which is set to the system name it belongs to (Polaris, Aurora, etc). This means you can typically get away with the very simple -l select=128:system=polaris which will give you 128 complete nodes on Polaris.
  • -l select=[<N>:]<chunk>[+[<N>:]<chunk> ...] where N specifies how many of that chunk and a chunk is of the form:
  • <resource name>=<value>[:<resource name>=<value> ...]
  • Here is an example that would select resources from a machine like Polaris (A100s) and a hypothetical vis machine with A40 GPUs. Note that PBS takes care of co-scheduling the nodes on the two systems for you transparently:
    • -l select=128:ncpus=64:ngpus=4:gputype=A100+32:ncpus=64:ngpus=2:gputype=A40

You also have to tell PBS how you want the chunks distributed across the physical hardware. You do that via the -l place option:

  • -l place=[<arrangement>][: <sharing> ][: <grouping>] where
  • arrangement is one of free | pack | scatter | vscatter
    • unless you have a specific reason to do otherwise, you probably want to set this to scatter, otherwise you may not get what you expect. For instance on a host with ncpus=64, if you requested -l select=8:ncpus=8 you could end up with all of our chunks on one node.
    • free means PBS can distribute them as it sees fit
    • pack means all chunks from one host. Note that this is not the minimum number of hosts, it is one host. If the chunks can't fit on one host, the qsub will fail.
    • scatter means take only one chunk from any given host.
    • vscatter means take only one chunk from any given vnode. If a host has multiple vnodes, you could end up with more than one chunk on the host.
  • sharing is one of excl | shared | exclhost where
    • NOTE: Node configuration can override your requested sharing mode. For instance, in most cases ALCF sets the nodes to force_exclhost, so normally you don't have to specify this.
    • excl means this job gets the entire vnode
    • shared means the vnode could be shared with another job from another user.
    • exclhost means this job gets the entire host, even if it has multiple vnodes.
  • group=<resource name>
    • Below you will see the rack and dragonfly group mappings. If you wanted to ensure that all the chunks came from dragonfly group 2, you could specify group=g2.

There is an alternative to using the group= syntax. The downside to group= is that you have to specify a specific dragonfly group, when what you may really want is for your chunks to all be in one dragonfly group, but you don't care which one. On each node, we have defined two resources, one called tier0 which is equal to the rack the node is in (each rack has a switch in it) and tier1 which is equal to the dragonfly group it is in. We have defined placement sets for the tier0 and tier1 resources. If you use placement sets it will preferentially choose nodes from the specified resource, but it won't drain or delay your job start.

Here is a heavily commented sample PBS submission script:

# UG Section 2.5, page UG-24 Job Submission Options
# Add another # at the beginning of the line to comment out a line
# NOTE: adding a switch to the command line will override values in this file.

# These options are MANDATORY at ALCF; Your qsub will fail if you don't provide them.
#PBS -A <short project name>
#PBS -l walltime=HH:MM:SS

# Highly recommended 
# The first 15 characters of the job name are displayed in the qstat output:
#PBS -N <name>

# If you need a queue other than the default (uncomment to use)
##PBS -q <queue name>

# Controlling the output of your application
# UG Sec 3.3 page UG-40 Managing Output and Error Files
# By default, PBS spools your output on the compute node and then uses scp to move it the
# destination directory after the job finishes.  Since we have globally mounted file systems
# it is highly recommended that you use the -k option to write directly to the destination
# the doe stands for direct, output, error
#PBS -k doe
#PBS -o <path for stdout>
#PBS -e <path for stderr>

# If you want to merge stdout and stderr, use the -j option
# oe=merge stdout/stderr to stdout, eo=merge stderr/stdout to stderr, n=don't merge
#PBS -j n

# Controlling email notifications
# UG Sec 2.5.1, page UG-25 Specifying Email Notification
# When to send email b=job begin, e=job end, a=job abort, j=subjobs (job arrays), n=no mail
#PBS -m be 
# Be default, mail goes to the submitter, use this option to add others (uncomment to use)
##PBS -M <email addresses>

# Setting job dependencies
# UG Section 6.2, page UG-107 Using Job Dependencies
# There are many options for how to set up dependancies;  afterok will give behavior similar
# to Cobalt (uncomment to use)
##PBS depend=afterok:<jobid>:<jobid>

# Environment variables (uncomment to use)
# Section 6.12, page UG-126 Using Environment Variables
# Sect 2.59.7, page RG-231 Enviornment variables PBS puts in the job environment
##PBS -v <variable list>
## -v a=10, "var2='A,B'", c=20, HOME=/home/zzz
##PBS -V exports all the environment variables in your environnment to the compute node

# The rest is an example of how an MPI job might be set up
echo Working directory is $PBS_O_WORKDIR

echo Jobid: $PBS_JOBID
echo Running on host `hostname`
echo Running on nodes `cat $PBS_NODEFILE`

NRANKS=1           # Number of MPI ranks per node
NDEPTH=1           # Number of hardware threads per rank, spacing between MPI ranks on a node
NTHREADS=1         # Number of OMP threads per rank, given to OMP_NUM_THREADS



mpiexec --np ${NTOTRANKS} -ppn ${NRANKS} -d ${NDEPTH} -env OMP_NUM_THREADS=${NTHREADS} ./hello_mpi

qsub examples

  • qsub -A my_allocation -l select=4:system=polaris -l walltime=30:00 -- a.out
    • run a.out on 4 chunks on polaris with a walltime of 30 minutes; charge my_allocation;
    • Since we allocate full nodes on Polaris, 4 chunks will be 4 nodes. If we shared nodes, that would be 4 cores.
    • use the -- (dash dash) syntax when directly running an executable.
  • qsub -A my_allocation -l place=scatter -l select=32:ncpus=32 -q prod -l walltime=30:00
    • 32 chunks on any system that meets the requirements; each chunk must have 32 HW threads; place=scatter means use a different vnode for each chunk, even if you could fit more than one on a vnode; use the queue named prod.

qstat - Query Job/Queue Status

  • Users Guide Sec. 10.2, page UG-177; Reference Guide Sec. 2.57, page RG-198
  • NOTE: By default, the columns are fixed width and will truncate information.
  • The most basic: qstat - will show all jobs queued and running in the system
  • Only a specific users jobs: qstat -u <my username>
  • Detailed information about a specific job: qstat -f <jobid> [<jobid> <jobid>...]
    • The comment field with the -f output can often tell you why your job isn't running or why it failed.
  • Display status of a queue: qstat -Q <queue name>
  • Display details of a queue: qstat -Qf <queue name>
  • Display status of a completed job: qstat -x <jobid> [<jobid> <jobid>...]
    • This has to be turned on (we have); It is configured to keep 2 weeks of history.
  • Get estimated start time: qstat -T <jobid>
  • Make output parseable: qstat -F [json | dsv]
    • That is dsv (delimeter) not csv; The default delimiter is |, but -D can change it for instance -D, would use a comma instead.

qalter - Alter a job submission

  • Users Guide Sec. 9.2, page UG-164; Reference Guide Sec. 2.42, page RG-128
  • Basically takes the same options as qsub; Say you typoed and set the walltime to 300 minutes instead of 30 minutes. You could fix it (if the job had not started running) by doing qalter -l walltime=30:00 <jobid> [<jobid> <jobid>...]
  • The new value overwrites any previous value.

qdel - Delete a job:

  • Users Guide Sec. 9.3, page UG-166; Reference Guide Sec. 2.43, page RG-141
  • qdel <jobid> [<jobid> <jobid>...]

qmove - Move a job to a different queue

  • Users Guide Sec. 9.7, page UG-169; Reference Guide Sec. 2.48, page RG-173
  • qmove <new queue> <jobid> [<jobid> <jobid>...]
  • Only works before a job starts running

qhold, qrls - Place / release a user hold on a job

  • Reference Guide Sec 2.46, page RG-148 and Sec 2.52, page RG-181
  • [qhold | qrls] <jobid> [<jobid> <jobid>...]

qselect - Query jobids for use in commands

  • Users Guide Sec. 10.1, page UG-171; Reference Guide Sec. 2.54, page RG-187
  • qdel `qselect -N test1` will delete all the jobs that had the job name set to test1.

qmsg Write a message string into one or more output files of the job

  • Users Guide Sec. 9.4, page UG-167; Reference Guide Sec. 2.49, page RG-175
  • qmsg -E -O "This is the message" <jobid> [<jobid> <jobid>...]
  • -E writes it to standard error, -O writes it to standard out

qsig Send a signal to a job

  • Users Guide Sec. 9.5, page UG-168; Reference Guide Sec. 2.55, page RG-193
  • qsig -s <signal> <jobid> [<jobid> <jobid>...]
  • If you don't specify a signal, SIGTERM is sent.

tracejob Get log information about your job

  • Reference Guide Sec 2.61, page RG-236
  • tracejob <jobid>

Getting information about the state of the resources

qstat Get information about the server or queues

  • Users Guide Sec. 10.3 & 10.4, page UG-184 - UG-187
  • qstat -B[f] - Check the server status
  • qstat -Q[f] <queue name> - Check the queue status
  • TODO: Add qmgr commands for checking queue and server status

pbsnodes Get information about the current state of nodes

  • Reference Guide Sec 2.7 page RG-36
  • This is more for admins, but it can tell you what nodes are free (state), how many "CPUs" which is actually the number of threads (ncpus), how many GPUs (ngpus) which with A100s can change depending on the MIG mode, and if the node is shared or not (sharing).

pbsnodes -av - Everything there is to know about a node

     Mom =
     ntype = PBS
     state = free
     pcpus = 128
     resources_available.arch = linux = aps-edge-dev-04
     resources_available.mem = 527831088kb
     resources_available.ncpus = 128
     resources_available.ngpus = 1
     resources_available.vnode = aps-edge-dev-04
     resources_assigned.accelerator_memory = 0kb
     resources_assigned.hbmem = 0kb
     resources_assigned.mem = 0kb
     resources_assigned.naccelerators = 0
     resources_assigned.ncpus = 0
     resources_assigned.vmem = 0kb
     resv_enable = True
     sharing = force_exclhost
     license = l
     last_state_change_time = Tue Oct  5 21:58:57 2021
pbsnodes -avSj - A nice table to see what is free and in use

(base) [allcock@edtb-01 20220214-22:53:26]> pbsnodes -avSj
                                                        mem       ncpus   nmics   ngpus
vnode           state           njobs   run   susp      f/t        f/t     f/t     f/t   jobs
--------------- --------------- ------ ----- ------ ------------ ------- ------- ------- -------
edtb-01         free                 0     0      0      0 b/0 b     0/0     0/0     0/0 --
edtb-02         free                 0     0      0      0 b/0 b     0/0     0/0     0/0 --
edtb-03         free                 0     0      0      0 b/0 b     0/0     0/0     0/0 --
edtb-04         free                 0     0      0      0 b/0 b     0/0     0/0     0/0 --
edtb-01[0]      free                 0     0      0  250gb/250gb   64/64     0/0     1/1 --
edtb-01[1]      free                 0     0      0  251gb/251gb   64/64     0/0     1/1 --
edtb-02[0]      free                 0     0      0  250gb/250gb   64/64     0/0     1/1 --
edtb-02[1]      free                 0     0      0  251gb/251gb   64/64     0/0     1/1 --
edtb-03[0]      free                 0     0      0  250gb/250gb   64/64     0/0     1/1 --
edtb-03[1]      free                 0     0      0  251gb/251gb   64/64     0/0     1/1 --
edtb-04[0]      free                 0     0      0  250gb/250gb   64/64     0/0     1/1 --
edtb-04[1]      free                 0     0      0  251gb/251gb   64/64     0/0     1/1 --
pbsnodes -l - (lowercase l) see which nodes are down; The comment often indicates why it is down

[20220217-21:10:31]> pbsnodes -l
x3014c0s19b0n0       offline,resv-exclusive Xid 74 -- GPUs need reseat
x3014c0s25b0n0       offline,resv-exclusive Checking on ConnectX-5 firmware

Polaris specific stuff

Polaris Rack and Dragonfly group mappings

  • Racks contain (7) 6U chassis; Each chassis has 2 nodes for 14 nodes per rack
  • The hostnames are of the form xRRPPc0sUUb[0|1]n0 where:
    • RR is the row {30, 31, 32}
    • PP is the position in the row {30 goes 1-16, 31 and 32 go 1-12}
    • c is chassis and is always 0
    • s stands for slot, but in this case is the RU in the rack and values are {1,7,13,19,25,31,37}
    • b is BMC controller and is 0 or 1 (each node has its own BMC)
    • n is node, but is always 0 since there is only one node per BMC
  • So, 16+12+12 = 40 racks * 14 nodes per rack = 560 nodes.
  • Note that in production group 9 (the last 4 racks) will be the designated on-demand racks
  • The management racks are x3000 and X3100 and are dragonfly group 10
  • The TDS rack is x3200 and is dragonfly group 11
g0 g1 g2 g3 g4 g5 g6 g7 g8 g9
x3001-g0 x3005-g1 x3009-g2 x3013-g3 x3101-g4 x3105-g5 x3109-g6 x3201-g7 x3205-g8 x3209-g9
x3002-g0 x3006-g1 x3010-g2 x3014-g3 x3102-g4 x3106-g5 x3110-g6 x3202-g7 x3206-g8 x3210-g9
x3003-g0 x3007-g1 x3011-g2 x3015-g3 x3103-g4 x3107-g5 x3111-g6 x3203-g7 x3207-g8 x3211-g9
x3004-g0 x3008-g1 x3012-g2 x3016-g3 x3104-g4 x3108-g5 x3112-g6 x3204-g7 x3208-g8 x3212-g9

Controlling the execution on your allocated resources

Running MPI+OpenMP Applications

Once a submitted job is running calculations can be launched on the compute nodes using mpiexec to start an MPI application. Documentation is accessible via man mpiexec and some helpful options follow. * -n total number of MPI ranks * -ppn number of MPI ranks per node * --cpu-bind CPU binding for application * --depth number of cpus per rank (useful with --cpu-bind depth) * --env set environment variables (--env OMP_NUM_THREADS=2) * --hostfile indicate file with hostnames (the default is --hostfile $PBS_NODEFILE)

A sample submission script with directives is below for a 4-node job with 32 MPI ranks on each node and 8 OpenMP threads per rank (1 per CPU).

#PBS -l select=4:ncpus=256
#PBS -l walltime=0:10:00

NRANKS=32 # Number of MPI ranks to spawn per node
NDEPTH=8 # Number of hardware threads per rank (i.e. spacing between MPI ranks)
NTHREADS=8 # Number of software threads per rank to launch (i.e. OMP_NUM_THREADS)



cd /home/knight/affinity
mpiexec --np ${NTOTRANKS} -ppn ${NRANKS} -d ${NDEPTH} --cpu-bind depth -env OMP_NUM_THREADS=${NTHREADS} ./hello_affinity

Running GPU-enabled Applications

GPU-enabled applications will similarly run on the compute nodes using the above example script.

  • The environment variable MPICH_GPU_SUPPORT_ENABLED=1 needs to be set if your application requires MPI-GPU support whereby the MPI library sends and recieves data directly from GPU buffers. In this case, it will be important to have the craype-accel-nvidia80 module loaded both when compiling your application and during runtime to correctly link against a GPU Transport Layer (GTL) MPI library. Otherwise, you'll likely see GPU_SUPPORT_ENABLED is requested, but GTL library is not linked errors during runtime.

  • If running on a specific GPU or subset of GPUs is desired, then the CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES environment variable can be used. For example, if one only wanted an application to access the first two GPUs on a node, then setting CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES=0,1 could be used.

Binding MPI ranks to GPUs

The Cray MPI on Polaris does not currently support binding MPI ranks to GPUs. For applications that need this support, this instead can be handled by use of a small helper script that will appropriately set CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES for each MPI rank. One example is available here where each MPI rank is similarly bound to a single GPU with round-robin assignment.

A example script follows where GPUs are assigned round-robin to MPI ranks.

gpu=$((${PMI_LOCAL_RANK} % ${num_gpus}))
echo “RANK= ${PMI_RANK} LOCAL_RANK= ${PMI_LOCAL_RANK} gpu= ${gpu}”
exec "$@"
This script can be placed just before the executable in the mpiexec command like so.
mpiexec -n ${NTOTRANKS} --ppn ${NRANKS_PER_NODE} --depth=${NDEPTH} --cpu-bind depth ./ ./hello_affinity
Users with different needs, such as assigning multiple GPUs per MPI rank, can modify the above script to suit their needs.