Services for Running Jobs

HTCondor provides an environment and certain services for running jobs. Jobs can use these services to provide more reliable runs, to give logging and monitoring data for users, and to synchronize with other jobs. Note that different HTCondor job universes may provide different services. The functionality below is available in the vanilla universe, unless otherwise stated.

Environment Variables

An HTCondor job running on a worker node does not, by default, inherit the environment variables from the machine it runs on or the machine it was submitted from. If it did, the environment might change from run to run, or machine to machine, and create non reproducible, difficult to debug problems. Rather, HTCondor is deliberate about what environment variables a job sees, and allows the user to set them in the job description file.

The user may define environment variables for the job with the environment command in the submit file. See within the condor_submit manual page for more details about this command.

Instead of defining environment variables individually, the entire set of environment variables in the condor_submit’s environment can be copied into the job. The getenv command does this, as described on the condor_submit manual page.

In general, it is preferable to just declare the minimum set of needed environment variables with the environment command, as that clearly declares the needed environment variables. If the needed set is not known, the getenv command is useful. If the environment is set with both the environment command and getenv is also set to true, values specified with environment override values in the submitter’s environment, regardless of the order of the environment and getenv commands in the submit file.

Commands within the submit description file may reference the environment variables of the submitter. Submit description file commands use $ENV(EnvironmentVariableName) to reference the value of an environment variable.

Extra Environment Variables HTCondor sets for Jobs

HTCondor sets several additional environment variables for each executing job that may be useful.

  • _CONDOR_SCRATCH_DIR names the directory where the job may place temporary data files. This directory is unique for every job that is run, and its contents are deleted by HTCondor when the job stops running on a machine. When file transfer is enabled, the job is started in this directory.
  • _CONDOR_SLOT gives the name of the slot (for multicore machines), on which the job is run. On machines with only a single slot, the value of this variable will be 1, just like the SlotID attribute in the machine’s ClassAd. See the Policy Configuration for Execute Hosts and for Submit Hosts section for more details about configuring multicore machines.
  • _CONDOR_JOB_AD is the path to a file in the job’s scratch directory which contains the job ad for the currently running job. The job ad is current as of the start of the job, but is not updated during the running of the job. The job may read attributes and their values out of this file as it runs, but any changes will not be acted on in any way by HTCondor. The format is the same as the output of the condor_q -l command. This environment variable may be particularly useful in a USER_JOB_WRAPPER.
  • _CONDOR_MACHINE_AD is the path to a file in the job’s scratch directory which contains the machine ad for the slot the currently running job is using. The machine ad is current as of the start of the job, but is not updated during the running of the job. The format is the same as the output of the condor_status -l command. Interesting attributes jobs may want to look at from this file include Memory and Cpus, the amount of memory and cpus provisioned for this slot.
  • _CONDOR_JOB_IWD is the path to the initial working directory the job was born with.
  • _CONDOR_WRAPPER_ERROR_FILE is only set when the administrator has installed a USER_JOB_WRAPPER. If this file exists, HTCondor assumes that the job wrapper has failed and copies the contents of the file to the StarterLog for the administrator to debug the problem.
  • OMP_NUM_THREADS is set to the number of cpu cores provisioned to this job. Should be at least RequestCpus, but HTCondor may match a job to a bigger slot. Jobs should not spawn more than this number of cpu-bound threads, or their performance will suffer. Many third party libraries like OpenMP obey this environment variable.
  • X509_USER_PROXY gives the full path to the X.509 user proxy file if one is associated with the job. Typically, a user will specify x509userproxy in the submit description file.

Communicating with the Submit machine via Chirp

HTCondor provides a method for running jobs to read or write information to or from the submit machine, called “chirp”. Chirp allows jobs to

  • Write to the job ad in the schedd. This can be used for long-running jobs to write progress information back to the submit machine, so that a condor_q query will reveal how far along a running job is. Or, if a job is listening on a network port, chirp can write the port number to the job ad, so that others can connect to this job.
  • Read from the job ad in the schedd. While most information a job needs should be in input files, command line arguments or environment variables, a job can read dynamic information from the schedd’s copy of the classad.
  • Write a message to the job log. Another place to put progress information is into the job log file. This allows anyone with access to that file to see how much progress a running job has made.
  • Read a file from the submit machine. This allows a job to read a file from the submit machine at runtime. While file transfer is generally a better approach, file transfer requires the submitter to know the files to be transferred at submit time.
  • Write a file to the submit machine. Again, while file transfer is usually the better choice, with chirp, a job can write intermediate results back to the submit machine before the job exits.

HTCondor ships a command-line tool, called condor_chirp that can do these actions, and provides python bindings so that they can be done natively in Python.

Resource Limitations on a Running Job

Depending on how HTCondor has been configured, the OS platform, and other factors, HTCondor may configure the system a job runs on to prevent a job from using all the resources on a machine. This protects other jobs that may be running on the machine, and the machine itself from being harming by a running job.

Jobs may see

  • A private (non-shared) /tmp and /var/tmp directory
  • A private (non-shared) /dev/shm
  • A limit on the amount of memory they can allocate, above which the job may be placed on hold or evicted by the system.
  • A limit on the amount of CPU cores the may use, above which the job may be blocked, and will run very slowly.