PRACTICAL: Batch Systems and ARCHER2 Slurm Scheduler


Teaching: 15 min
Exercises: 15 min
  • How do I write job submission scripts?

  • How do I control jobs?

  • How do I find out what resources are available?

  • Understand the use of the basic Slurm commands.

  • Know what components make up and ARCHER2 scheduler.

  • Know where to look for further help on the scheduler.

ARCHER2 uses the Slurm job submission system, or scheduler, to manage resources and how they are made available to users. The main commands you will use with Slurm on ARCHER2 are:

Full documentation on Slurm on ARCHER2 can be found in the Running Jobs on ARCHER2 section of the User and Best Practice Guide.

Finding out what resources are available: sinfo

The sinfo command shows the current state of the compute nodes known to the scheduler:

auser@login01-nmn:~> sinfo
standard     up 1-00:00:00     60  down* nid[001006,001033,001045-001047,001061,001068,001074,001109,001125,001138,001149,001163,001171,001227-001228,001241,001255,001262,001273,001287,001326,001336,001347,001366,001369,001395,001435,001462,001478,001490,001505,001539,001546,001552,001581,001614,001642,001644-001645,001647,001652,001664,001669,001709,001719,001723,001729,001747,001751,001757,001810,001817,001839,001903,001919,001932,001950,001955,002014]
standard     up 1-00:00:00     11  drain nid[001016,001069,001092,001468,001520-001521,001812,001833-001835,001838]
standard     up 1-00:00:00      5   resv nid[001001-001004,001021]
standard     up 1-00:00:00    565  alloc nid[001000,001005,001007-001015,001018-001020,001022-001032,001034-001044,001048-001060,001062-001067,001070-001073,001075-001091,001093-001108,001110-001124,001126-001137,001139-001148,001150-001155,001158-001162,001164-001170,001172-001226,001229-001240,001242-001254,001256-001261,001263-001272,001274-001286,001288-001317,001319-001325,001327-001335,001337-001346,001348-001365,001367-001368,001370-001394,001396-001434,001436-001461,001463-001467,001469-001477,001491-001504,001547-001551,001553-001580,001582-001613,001615-001641,001648-001651,001653-001663,001665-001668,001951-001954]
standard     up 1-00:00:00    380   idle nid[001017,001156-001157,001479-001489,001506-001519,001522-001538,001540-001545,001643,001646,001670-001688,001690-001708,001710-001718,001720-001722,001724-001728,001730-001746,001748-001750,001752-001756,001758-001809,001811,001813-001816,001818-001824,001826-001832,001836-001837,001840-001902,001904-001918,001920-001931,001933-001949,001956-002013,002015-002023]

There is a row for each node state and partition combination. The default output shows the following columns:

The nodes can be in many different states, the most common you will see are:

If you prefer to see the state of individual nodes, you can use the sinfo -N -l command.

Lots to look at!

Warning! The sinfo -N -l command will produce a lot of output as there are over 1000 individual nodes on the current ARCHER2 system!

auser@login01-nmn:~> sinfo -N -l
Fri Jul 10 09:45:54 2020
nid001001      1    standard        idle  256   2:64:2 244046        0      1   (null) none
nid001002      1    standard        idle  256   2:64:2 244046        0      1   (null) none
nid001003      1    standard        idle  256   2:64:2 244046        0      1   (null) none
nid001004      1    standard        idle  256   2:64:2 244046        0      1   (null) none
nid001005      1    standard        idle  256   2:64:2 244046        0      1   (null) none
nid001006      1    standard        idle  256   2:64:2 244046        0      1   (null) none
nid001007      1    standard        idle  256   2:64:2 244046        0      1   (null) none
nid001008      1    standard        idle  256   2:64:2 244046        0      1   (null) none

...lots of output trimmed...

Explore a compute node

Let us look at the resources available on the compute nodes where your jobs will actually run. Try running this command to see the name, CPUs and memory available on the worker nodes (the instructors will give you the ID of the compute node to use):

[auser@login01-nmn:~> sinfo -n nid001005 -o "%n %c %m"

This should display the resources available for a standard node.

It is also possible to search nodes by state. Can you find all the free nodes in the system?


sinfo lets you specify the state of a node to search for, so to get all the free nodes in the system you can use:

sinfo -N -l --state=idle

More information on what sinfo can display can be found in the sinfo manual page, i.e. man sinfo

Using batch job submission scripts

Header section: #SBATCH

As with most other scheduler systems, job submission scripts in Slurm consist of a header section with the shell specification and options to the submission command (sbatch in this case) followed by the body of the script that actually runs the commands you want. In the header section, options to sbatch should be prepended with #SBATCH.

Here is a simple example script that runs the xthi program, which shows process and thread placement, Here we consider only MPI and assume there in no OpenMP involved.

The intention is to run using two nodes (nodes will always be allocated on and exclusive basis) and use 128 MPI tasks per node (i.e., one per physical core).


#SBATCH --partition=standard
#SBATCH --qos=standard
#SBATCH --time=00:02:00

#SBATCH --nodes=2
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=128

#SBATCH --hint=nomultithread
#SBATCH --distribution=block:block

# Load the default programming environment, and the xthi utility
module load epcc-job-env
module load xthi/1.0

# srun to launch the executable
srun xthi

The options shown here are:

Other options include (there are many)

We will discuss the srun command further below.

Submitting jobs using sbatch

You use the sbatch command to submit job submission scripts to the scheduler. For example, if the above script was saved in a file called test_job.slurm, you would submit it with:

auser@login01-nmn:~> sbatch test_job.slurm
Submitted batch job 23996

Slurm reports back with the job ID for the job you have submitted

What are the default for sbatch options?

If you do not specify job options, what are the defaults for Slurm on ARCHER2? Submit jobs to find out what the defaults are for:

  1. The number of nodes used by the job?
  2. The number of tasks per node?
  3. The wall time limit? (Hint: you may need the command: sacct or sinfo)
  4. What other options can be ommited without error?


(1) If --nodes is omitted, the default is 1 node.

(2) If --ntasks-per-node is omitted, the default is 1 task per node.

(3) Check man sacct and look for the time limit field.

If we had a job with jobid 12345, then we could query the time limit for that particular job with, e.g.,

auser@login01-nmn:~> sacct -o "TimeLimit" -j 12345

(4) A --partition must be specified, and a --qos must be specifed. An error will be generated at the point of submission if either is omitted.

Checking progress of your job with squeue

You use the squeue command to show the current state of the queues on ARCHER2. Without any options, it will show all jobs in the queue:

auser@login01-nmn:~> squeue

Cancelling jobs with scancel

You can use the scancel command to cancel jobs that are queued or running. When used on running jobs it stops them immediately.

Running parallel applications using srun

Once past the header section your script consists of standard shell commands required to run your job. These can be simple or complex depending on how you run your jobs but even the simplest job script usually contains commands to:

After this you will usually launch your parallel program using the srun command. At its simplest, srun does not require any arguments (it will use values supplied to sbatch to work out how many parallel processes to launch). In the example above, our srun command simply looks like:

srun xthi

Fewer tasks than cores

You may want to run fewer MPI tasks per node than there are cores per node on ARCHER2 to access more memory, or more memory bandwidth, per task. This requires the option --cpus-per-task to specify how many “cpus” (in this context, cores) are allocated to each MPI task. Can you determine the sbatch options you would use to run xthi:

  1. On 4 nodes with 64 tasks per node?
  2. On 2 nodes with 2 tasks per node, 1 task per socket?
  3. On 4 nodes with 8 tasks per node, ensuring an even distribution across the 8 NUMA regions on the node?

Once you have your answers run them in job scripts and check that the placement on nodes and cores output by xthi is what you expect.


  1. --nodes=4 --ntasks-per-node=64
  2. --nodes=2 --ntasks-per-node=2 --cpus-per-task=64
  3. --nodes=4 --ntasks-per-node=8


STDOUT and STDERR from jobs are, by default, written to a file called slurm-<jobid>.out in the working directory for the job (unless the job script changes this, this will be the directory where you submitted the job). So for a job with ID 12345 STDOUT and STDERR would be in slurm-12345.out.

If you run into issues with your jobs, the Service Desk will often ask you to send your job submission script and the contents of this file to help debug the issue.

If you need to change the location of STDOUT and STDERR you can use the --output=<filename> and the --error=<filename> options to sbatch to split the streams and output to the named locations.

Other useful information

In this section we briefly introduce other scheduler topics that may be useful to users. We provide links to more information on these areas for people who may want to explore these areas more.

Interactive jobs: salloc

Similar to the batch jobs covered above, users can also run interactive jobs using the Slurm command salloc. salloc takes the same arguments as sbatch but, obviously, these are specified on the command line rather than in a job submission script.

Once the job requested with salloc starts, you will be returned to the command line and can now start parallel jobs on the compute nodes interactively with the srun command in the same way as you would within a job submission script.

For example, to execute xthi across all cores on two nodes (1 MPI task per core and no OpenMP threading) within an interactive job you would issue the following commands:

auser@login01-nmn:~> salloc --nodes=2 --ntasks-per-node=128 --hint=nomultithread --time=00:10:00 --partition=standard --qos=standard
salloc: Granted job allocation 24236
auser@login01-nmn:~> module load xthi/1.0
auser@login01-nmn:~> srun xthi
Node    0, hostname nid001107, mpi 128, omp   1, executable xthi
Node    1, hostname nid001108, mpi 128, omp   1, executable xthi
Node    0, rank    0, thread   0, (affinity =    0)

Once you have finished your interactive commands, you exit the interactive job with exit:

auser@login01-nmn:~> exit
salloc: Relinquishing job allocation 24236

Key Points

  • ARCHER2 uses the Slurm scheduler.

  • srun is used to launch parallel executables in batch job submission scripts.

  • There are a number of different partitions (queues) available.