HOWTO: Submit multiple jobs using parameters

Often users want to submit a large number of jobs all at once, with each using different parameters for each job. These parameters could be anything, including the path of a data file or different input values for a program. This how-to will show you how you can do this using a simple python script, a CSV file, and a template script. You will need to adapt this advice for your own situation.

Consider the following batch script:

#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=2
#SBATCH --time=1:00:00
#SBATCH --job-name=week42_data8

# Copy input data to the nodes fast local disk
cp ~/week42/data/source1/ $TMPDIR


# Run the analysis
full_analysis data8.out

# Copy results to proper folder
cp  data8.out ~/week42/results

Let's say you need to submit 100 of these jobs on a weekly basis. Each job uses a different data file as input. You recieve data from two different sources, and so your data is located within two different folders. All of the jobs from one week need to store their results in a single weekly results folder. The output file name is based upon the input file name.

Creating a Template Script

As you can see, this job follows a general template.  There are three main parameters that change in each job:

  1. The week 
    • Used as part of the job name
    • Used to find the proper data file to copy to the nodes local disk
    • Used to copy the results to the correct folder
  2. The data source
    • Used to find the proper data file to copy to the nodes local disk
  3. The data file's name
    • Used as part of the job name
    • Used to find the proper data file to copy to the nodes local disk
    • Used to specify both the input and output file to the program full_analysis
    • Used to copy the results to the correct folder

If we replace these parameters with variables, prefixed by the dollar sign $and surrounded by curly braces { }, we get the following template script:

Slurm does not support using variables in the #SBATCH section, so we need to set the job name in the submit command.
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=2
#SBATCH --time=1:00:00

# Copy input data to the nodes fast local disk 
cp ~/${WEEK}/data/${SOURCE}/${DATA}.in $TMPDIR

# Run the analysis 
full_analysis ${DATA}.in ${DATA}.out

# Copy results to proper folder
cp  ${DATA}.out ~/${WEEK}/results

Automating Job Submission

We can now use the sbatch --exportoption to pass parameters to our template script. The format for passing parameters is:

sbatch --job-name=name --export=var_name=value[,var_name=value...]

Submitting 100 jobs using the sbatch --export option manually does not make our task much easier than modifying and submitting each job one by one. To complete our task we need to automate the submission of our jobs. We will do this by using a python script that submits our jobs using parameters it reads from a CSV file.  

Note that python was chosen for this task for its general ease of use and understandability -- if you feel more comfortable using another scripting language feel free to interpret/translate this python code for your own use.

The script for submitting multiple jobs using parameters can be found at ~support/share/misc/

Use the following command to run a test with the examples already created:

Make sure to replace <your-proj-code> with a project you are a member of to charge jobs to.
~support/share/misc/ -t ~support/share/misc/submit_jobs_examples/ WEEK,SOURCE,DATA ~support/share/misc/submit_jobs_examples/parameters_example2.csv <your-proj-code>

This script will open the CSV file and step through the file line by line, submitting a job for each line using the line's values. If the submit command returns a non-zero exit code, usually indicating it was not submitted, we will print this out to the display. The jobs will be submitted using the general format (using the example WEEK,SOURCE,DATA environment variables):

sbatch -A <project-account> -o ~/x/job_logs/x_y_z.job_log --job-name=x_y_z --export=WEEK=x,SOURCE=y,DATA=z

Where x, y and z are determined by the values in the CSV parameter file. Below we relate x to week, y to source and z to data.

Creating a CSV File

We now need to create a CSV file with parameters for each job. This can be done with a regular text editor or using a spreadsheet editor such as Excel. By default you should use commas as your delimiter.  

Here is our CSV file with parameters:


The submit script would read in the first row of this CSV file and form and execute the command:

sbatch -A <project-account> -o week42/job_logs/week42_source1_data1.job_log --job-name=week42_source1_data1 --export=WEEK=week42,SOURCE=source1,DATA=data1

Submitting Jobs

Once all the above is done, all you need to do to submit your jobs is to make sure the CSV file is populated with the proper parameters and run the automatic submission script with the right flags.

Try using --help for an explanation:

$ ~support/share/misc/ --help
usage: [-h] [-t]
                      jobscript parameter_names job_parameters_file account

Automatically submit jobs using a csv file; examples in

positional arguments:
  jobscript            job script to use
  parameter_names      comma separated list of names for each parameter
  job_parameters_file  csv parameter file to use
  account              project account to charge jobs to

optional arguments:
  -h, --help           show this help message and exit
  -t, --test           test script without submitting jobs
Before submitting a large number of jobs for the first time using this method it is recommended you test with a small number of jobs and using the -t flag as well to check the submit commands.

Modifying for unique uses

It is a good idea to copy the ~support/share/misc/ file and modify for unique use cases.

Contact and OSC staff can assist if there are questions using the default script or adjusting the script for unique use cases.