Running an interactive job on Palmetto


Teaching: 15 min
Exercises: 0 min
  • How do I request and interact with a compute node?

  • qsub, pbsnodes, modules

Now, we arrive at the most important part of today’s workshop: getting on the compute nodes. Compute nodes are the real power of Palmetto. Let’s see which of the compute nodes are available at the moment:


We can see that the cluster is quite busy, but there is a fair amount of compute nodes that are available for us. Now, let’s request one compute node. Please type the following (or paste from the website into your SSH terminal):

qsub -I -l select=1:ncpus=4:mem=10gb:interconnect=1g,walltime=2:00:00

It is very important not to make typos, use spaces and upper/lowercases exactly as shown, and use the proper punctuation (note the : between ncpus and mem, and the , before walltime). If you make a mistake, nothing wrong will happen, but the scheduler won’t understand your request.

Now, let’s carefully go through the request:

This is actually a very modest request, and the scheduler should grant it right away. Sometimes, when we are asking for much substantial amount of resources (for example, 20 nodes with 40 cores and 370 Gb of RAM), the scheduler cannot satisfy our request, and will put us into the queue so we will have to wait until the node becomes available.

Once the request is granted, you will see something like that:

qsub (Warning): Interactive jobs will be treated as not rerunnable
qsub: waiting for job 631266.pbs02 to start
qsub: job 631266.pbs02 ready

(base) [gyourga@node0193 ~]$

Please note two important things. First, our prompt changes from login001 no nodeXXXX, where XXXX is some four-digit number. This is the number of the node that we got (in our case, 0193). The second one is the job ID, which is 631266. We can see the information about the compute node by using the pbsnodes command:

pbsnodes node0193

Here is the information about the node that I was assigned to (node0102):

(base) [gyourga@node0193 ~]$ pbsnodes node0193
     Mom =
     ntype = PBS
     state = job-busy
     pcpus = 8
     Priority = 1
     jobs = 626489.pbs02/0, 626489.pbs02/1, 626489.pbs02/2, 626489.pbs02/3, 631266.pbs02/4, 631266.pbs02/5, 631266.pbs02/6, 631266.pbs02/7
     resources_available.arch = linux
     resources_available.chip_manufacturer = intel
     resources_available.chip_model = xeon
     resources_available.chip_type = e5520 = node0193
     resources_available.hpmem = 0b
     resources_available.interconnect = 1g
     resources_available.make = dell
     resources_available.manufacturer = dell
     resources_available.mem = 31922mb
     resources_available.model = r610
     resources_available.ncpus = 8
     resources_available.ngpus = 0
     resources_available.node_make = dell
     resources_available.node_manufacturer = dell
     resources_available.node_model = r610
     resources_available.nphis = 0
     resources_available.phase = 1a
     resources_available.qcat = c1_workq_qcat, c1_solo_qcat, osg_qcat, phase01a_qcat, mx_qcat
     resources_available.ssd = False
     resources_available.vmem = 32882mb
     resources_available.vnode = node0193
     resources_assigned.accelerator_memory = 0kb
     resources_assigned.hbmem = 0kb
     resources_assigned.mem = 18874368kb
     resources_assigned.naccelerators = 0
     resources_assigned.ncpus = 8
     resources_assigned.ngpus = 0
     resources_assigned.nphis = 0
     resources_assigned.vmem = 0kb
     resv_enable = True
     sharing = default_shared
     last_state_change_time = Mon Oct 12 13:15:56 2020
     last_used_time = Thu Oct  1 01:31:30 2020

You can see that the node has 8 CPUs, no GPUs, belongs to phase 1a, and at the moment runs 8 jobs. One of these jobs is mine. When I submitted qsub request, the scheduler told me that my job ID is 631120. The pbsnodes command gives us the list of jobs that are currently running on the compute node, and, happily, I see my job on that list. It appears four times, because I have requested four CPUs.

To exit the compute node, type:


This will bring you back to the login node. See how your prompt has changed to login001. It is important to notice that you have to be on a login node to request a compute node. One you are on the compute node, and you want to go to another compute node, you have to exit first.

For some jobs, you might want to get a GPU, or perhaps two GPUs. For such requests, the qsub command needs to specify the number of GPUs (one or two) and the type of GPUs (which you can get from cat /etc/hardware-table). For example, let’s request a NVIDIA Tesla K40:

qsub -I -l select=1:ncpus=4:mem=10gb:ngpus=1:gpu_model=k40,walltime=2:00:00

Regarding the interconnect, the three examples below ask for the same combination of CPUs and RAM but with diffrent interconnect types:

If the scheduler receives a request it cannot satisfy, it will complain and not assign you to a compute node (you will stay on the login node). For example, if you ask for 40 CPUs and interconnect=1g.

It is possible to ask for several compute nodes at a time, for example select=4 will give you 4 compute nodes. Some programs, such as LAMMPS or NAMD, work a lot faster if you ask for several nodes. This is an advanced topic and we will not discuss it here, but you can find some examples on our website.

It is very important to remember that you shouldn’t run computations on the login node, because the login node is shared between everyone who logs into Palmetto, so your computations will interfere with other people’s login processes. However, once you are on a compute node, you can run some computations, because each user gets their own CPUs and RAM so there is no interference. If you are on the login node, let’s get on the compute node:

qsub -I -l select=1:ncpus=4:mem=10gb:interconnect=1g,walltime=2:00:00

We have a lot of software installed on Palmetto, but most of it is organized into modules, which need to be loaded. For example, we have many versions of Matlab installed on Palmetto, but if you type


you will get an error:

-bash: matlab: command not found

In order to use Matlab, as well as most other software installed on Palmetto, you need to load the Matlab module. To see which modules are available on Palmetto, please type

module avail

Hit SPACE several times to get to the end of the module list. This is a very long list, and you can see that there is a lot of software installed for you. If you want to see which versions of Matlab are installed, you can type

module avail matlab
-------------------------------------------------------------- /software/AltModFiles ---------------------------------------------------------------
   matlab/MUSC2018b    matlab/2018b    matlab/2019b    matlab/2020a (D)

   D:  Default Module

Use "module spider" to find all possible modules and extensions.
Use "module keyword key1 key2 ..." to search for all possible modules matching any of the "keys".

Let’s say you want to use Matlab 2020. To load the module, you will need to specify its full name:

module load matlab/2020a

To see the list of modules currently loaded, you can type

module list

If the Matlab module was loaded correctly, you should see it in the module list. In order to start command-line Matlab, you can type


To exit Matlab, please type exit. To unload a module, you an use module unload matlab/2020a command. To unload all the modules, please type

module purge

Now, if you do module list, the list should be empty. Now, let’s start R. To see which versions of R are available, type

module avail r

This will give you a list of all modules which have the letter “r” in them (module avail is not very sophisticated). Let’s see what happens when you load the R 4.0.2 module:

module load r/4.0.2-gcc/8.3.1
module list
Currently Loaded Modules:
  1) tcl/8.6.8-gcc/8.3.1   2) openjdk/11.0.2-gcc/8.3.1   3) libxml2/2.9.10-gcc/8.3.1   4) libpng/1.6.37-gcc/8.3.1   5) r/4.0.2-gcc/8.3.1

R depends on other software to run, so we have configured the R module in a way that when you load it, it automatically loads other modules that it depends on.

Key Points

  • whatsfree shows the current Palmetto usage

  • qsub sends a request for a compute node to the scheduler

  • software available on Palmetto is organized into modules according to version

  • modules need to be loaded before use