Simple Linux Utility for Resource Management (SLURM)


The resources available on the UVA HPC cluster are managed by the Simple Linux Utility for Resource Management (SLURM). SLURM is an open-source tool that performs cluster management and job scheduling for Linux clusters. Jobs are submitted to the resource manager, which queues them until the system is ready to run them. SLURM selects which jobs to run, when to run them, and how to place them on the compute node, according to a predetermined site policy meant to balance competing user needs and to maximize efficient use of cluster resources. The resource manager divides a cluster into logical units called partitions by SLURM and generally known as queues in other queueing systems. Different partitions may contain different nodes, or they may overlap; they may also impose different resource limitations. The UVA HPC environment provides several partitions and there is no default; each job must request a partition. To determine which queues are available to your group, log in to the HPC System and type queues at a Linux command-line prompt.

SLURM architecture

SLURM has a controller process (called a daemon) on a head node and a worker daemon on each of the compute nodes. The controller is responsible for queueing jobs, monitoring the state of each node, and allocating resources. The worker daemon gathers information about its node and returns that information to the controller. When assigned a user job by the controller, the worker daemon initiates and manages the job. SLURM provides the interface between the user and the cluster. To submit a job to the cluster, you must request the appropriate resources and specify what you want to run with a SLURM Job Command File. SLURM performs three primary tasks:

  1. It manages the queue(s) of jobs and settles contentions for resources;
  2. It allocates a subset of nodes or cores for a set amount of time to a submitted job;
  3. It provides a framework for starting and monitoring jobs on the subset of nodes/cores.

Batch job scripts are submitted to the SLURM Controller to be run on the cluster. A batch job script is simply a shell script containing directives that specify the resource requirements (e.g. the number of cores, the maximum runtime, partition specification, etc.) that your job is requesting along with the set of commands required to execute your workflow on a subset of cluster compute nodes.  When the script is submitted to the resource manager, the controller reads the directives, ignoring the rest of the script, and uses them to determine the overall resource request.  It then assigns a priority to the job and places it into the queue.  Once the job is assigned to a worker, the job starts as an ordinary shell script on the "master" node, in which case the directives are treated as comments.  For this reason it is important to follow the format for directives exactly.

The remainder of this tutorial will focus on the SLURM command line interface. More detailed information about using SLURM can be found in the official SLURM documentation.

Common SLURM options and environment variables


Note that most SLURM options have two forms, a short (single-letter) form that is preceded by a single hyphen and followed by a space, and a longer form preceded by a double hyphen and followed by an equals sign.

  • Number of nodes: -N <n>    or  --nodes=<n>
  • Number of cores per node: --ntasks-per-node=<n>
  • Total number of tasks: -n <n> or --ntasks=<n>
  • Total memory per node in megabytes (not needed in most cases): --mem=<M>
  • Memory per core in megabytes (not needed in most cases): --mem-per-cpu=<M>
  • Wallclock time: -t d-hh:mm:ss or --time=d-hh:mm:ss
  • Partition requested: -p <part> or --partition=<part>
  • Rename output file (the default is slurm-<jobid>.out and standard output and standard error are joined): -o <outfile> or --output=<outfile>
  • Separate standard error and standard output and rename standard error: -e <errfile> or --error=<errfile>
  • Account to be charged: -A <account> or --account=<account>

Environment variables

These are the most basic; there are many more.  By default SLURM changes to the directory from which the job was submitted, so the SLURM_SUBMIT_DIR environment variable is usually not needed.


Displaying job status

The squeue command is used to obtain status information about all jobs submitted to all queues. Without any specified options, the squeue command provides a display which is similar to the following:

12345     serial        myHello    mst3k   R   5:31:21   4        udc-ba33-4a, udc-ba33-4b, uds-ba35-22d, udc-ba39-16a
12346     economy       bash       mst3k   R   2:44      1        udc-ba30-5

The fields of the display are clearly labeled, and most are self-explanatory. The TIME field indicates the elapsed walltime (hrs:min:secs) that the job has been running. Note that JOBID 12346 has the name bash, which indicates it is an interactive job. In that case, the TIME field provides the amount of walltime during which the interactive session has be open (and resources have been allocated). The ST field lists a code which indicates the state of the job. Commonly listed states include:

  • PD PENDING: Job is waiting for resources;
  • R RUNNING: Job has the allocated resources and is running;
  • S SUSPENDED: Job has the allocated resources, but execution has been suspended.

A complete list of job state codes is available here.

Submitting a job

Job scripts are submitted with the sbatch command, e.g.:

% sbatch hello.slurm

The job identification number is returned when you submit the job, e.g.:

% sbatch hello.slurm
Submitted batch job 18341

Canceling a job

SLURM provides the scancel command for deleting jobs from the system using the job identification number:

% scancel 18341

If you did not note the job identification number (JOBID) when it was submitted, you can use squeue to retrieve it.

% squeue -u mst3k

18341     serial         myHello      mst3k    R     0:01   1        udc-ba30-5

For further information about the squeue command, type man squeue on the cluster front-end machine or see the SLURM Documentation.

Running an Interactive Job

You may wish to use the cluster in an interactive mode, for debugging purposes, for using a package that provides a graphical user interface (GUI), or for a number of other purposes.  You can use the locally-written ijob command for this.  Running ijob will place your job into the requested partition as usual but when the job starts, you will obtain an interactive shell on the compute node.  The required options are -A and -c for allocation and core number, for example
ijob -A mygroup -c 1

The ijob command has several other options.  Please run ijob with no options for the full list.  For example, to submit to the largemem partition for 6 hours, use
ijob -A mygroup -c 1 -p largemem -t 6:00:00

To use a GUI or run other graphical processes in an interactive job, you must first run on the frontend
ssh -Y localhost
followed by the ijob command.

Interactive jobs terminate when you exit the remote shell or when your time limit has expired, whichever comes first.

Job accounting data

When submitting a job to the cluster for the first time, the walltime requirement should be overestimated to ensure that SLURM does not terminate the job prematurely. After the job completes, you can use sacct to get the total time that the job took. Without any specified options, the sacct command provides a display which is similar to the following:

JobID    JobName        Partition    Account    AllocCPUS   State       ExitCode
18347     economy      default    1           COMPLETED    0:0
18347    .batch         batch        default    1           COMPLETED    0:0
18348     economy      default    1           COMPLETED    0:0
18348    .batch         batch        default    1           COMPLETED    0:0
18352    bash           economy      default    1           COMPLETED    0:0
18352    .0             python       default    1           COMPLETED    0:0
18353    bash           economy      default    1           RUNNING     0:0
18353    .0             python       default    1           COMPLETED    0:0
18353    .1             python       default    1           COMPLETED    0:0
18353    .2             python       default    1           COMPLETED    0:0

To include the total time, you will need to customize the output by using the format options. For example, the command

% sacct --format=jobID --format=jobname --format=Elapsed --format=state

yields the following display:

JobID         JobName     Elapsed    State
18347  00:54:59   COMPLETED
18347.batch   batch       00:54:59   COMPLETED
18347.0       orted       00:54:59   COMPLETED
18348  00:54:74   COMPLETED
18348.batch   batch       00:54:74   COMPLETED
18352         bash        01:02:93   COMPLETED
18352.0       python      00:21:27   COMPLETED
18353         bash        02:01:05   RUNNING
18353.0       python      00:21:05   COMPLETED
18353.1       python      00:17:77   COMPLETED
18353.2       python      00:16:08   COMPLETED

The Elapsed time is given in hours, minutes, and seconds, with the default format of hh:mm:ss. The Elapsed time can be used as an estimate for the amount of time that you request in future runs; however, there can be differences in timing for a job that is run several times. In the above example, the job called python took 21 minutes, 27 seconds to run the first time (JobID 18352.0) and 16 minutes, 8 seconds the last time (JobID 18353.2). Because the same job can take varying amounts of time to run, it would be prudent to increase Elapsed time by 10% to 25% for future walltime requests. Requesting a little extra time will help to ensure that the time does not expire before a job completes.

Job scripts for parallel programs

Distributed memory jobs

If the executable is a parallel program using the Message Passing Interface (MPI), then it will require multiple processors of the cluster to run. This information is specified in the SLURM nodes resource requirement. The script mpiexec is used to invoke the parallel executable. This example is a SLURM job command file to run a parallel (MPI) job using the OpenMPI implementation:

#SBATCH --nodes=2 
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=4
#SBATCH --time=12:00:00
#SBATCH --output=output_filename
#SBATCH --partition=parallel 

module load openmpi/gcc

mpiexec ./parallel_executable

In this example, the SLURM job file is requesting two nodes with four tasks per node (for a total of eight processors).  Both OpenMPI and MVAPICH2 are able to obtain the number of processes and the host list from SLURM, so these are not specified.  In general, MPI jobs should use all of a node so we'd recommend ntasks-per-node=20 on the parallel partition, but some codes cannot be distributed in that manner so we are showing a more general example here.

SLURM can also place the job freely if the directives specify only the number of tasks. In this case do not specify a node count.  This is not generally recommended, however, as it can have a significant negative impact on performance.

#SBATCH --ntasks=8
#SBATCH --time=12:00:00
#SBATCH --output=output_filename
#SBATCH --partition=parallel 

module load openmpi/gcc

mpiexec ./parallel_executable

Threaded jobs (OpenMP or pthreads)

SLURM considers a task to correspond to a process.  Also please note that SLURM still uses the term "cpu" for "core."  This example is for OpenMP:

#SBATCH --ntasks=1
#SBATCH --cpus-per-task=20
#SBATCH --time=12:00:00
#SBATCH --output=output_filename
#SBATCH --partition=parallel

module load gcc


The following example runs a total of 32 MPI processes, 4 on each node, with each task using 5 cores for threading.  The total number of cores utilized is thus 160.

#SBATCH --ntasks=32
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=4
#SBATCH --cpus-per-task=5
#SBATCH --time=12:00:00
#SBATCH --output=output_filename
#SBATCH --partition=parallel

module load mvapich2/gcc
mpiexec ./hybrid_executable

Job Arrays

A large number of jobs can be submitted through one request if all the files used follow a strict pattern.  For example, if input files are named input_1.dat, ... , input_1000.dat, we could write a job script requesting the appropriate resources for a single one of these jobs with

#SBATCH --ntasks=1
#SBATCH --time=1:00:00
#SBATCH --output=result_%a.out
#SBATCH --partition=economy

/myprogram < input_${SLURM_ARRAY_TASK_ID}.dat

In the output file name, %a is the placeholder for the array ID.  We submit with

sbatch --array=1-1000

The system automatically submits 1000 jobs, which will all appear under a single job ID with separate array IDs.

Specifying job dependencies

With the sbatch command, you can invoke options that prevent a job from starting until a previous job has finished. This constraint is especially useful when a job requires an output file from another job in order to perform its tasks. The --dependency option allows for the specification of additional job attributes. For example, suppose that we have two jobs where job_2 must run after job_1 has completed. Using the corresponding SLURM command files, we can submit the jobs as follows:

% sbatch job_1.slurm

Submitted batch job 18375

% sbatch --dependency=afterok:18375 job_2.slurm

Notice that the --dependency has its own condition, in this case afterok. We want job_2 to start only after the job with id 18375 has completed successfully. The afterok condition specifies that dependency. Other commonly-used conditions include the following:

  • after: The dependent job is started after the specified job_id starts running;
  • afterany: The dependent job is started after the specified job_id terminates either successfully or with a failure;
  • afternotok: The dependent job is started only if the specified job_id terminates with a failure.

More options for arguments of the dependency condition are detailed in the manual pages for sbatch found here or by typing man sbatch at the Linux command prompt.

We also are able to see that a job dependency exists when we view the job status listing, although the explicit dependency is not stated, e.g.:

% squeue

18375    economy  mst3k    PD     0:00    1       (Dependency)
18374    economy  ms53k    R      0:09    1       udc-ba30-5

Submitting an interactive job

The recommended method is to use the locally-written command ijob:


Usage: ijob [-c] [-p] [-J] [-w] [-t] [-m] [-A]


  -A: account to use (required: no default)
  -p: partition to run job in (default: serial)
  -c: number of CPU cores to request (required: no default)
  -m: MB-amount of memory to request per-core (default 2000)
  -J: job name (default: interactive)
  -w: node name
  -t: time limit (default: 4:00:00)

Options which specify "no default" must be provided on the command line.  The request will be placed into the queue:

% ijob -c 1 -A mygroup -p serial -m 6000
salloc: Pending job allocation 25394
salloc: job 25394 queued and waiting for resources

ijob is a wrapper around the SLURM commands salloc and srun, with appropriate options to start a bash shell on the remote node.  There may be some delay for the resource to become available.

salloc: job 25394 has been allocated resources
salloc: Granted job allocation 25394

The allocated node(s) will remain reserved as long as the terminal session is open, up to the walltime limit, so it is extremely important that users exit their interactive sessions as soon as their work is done so that their nodes are returned to the available pool of processors and the user is not charged for unused time.

% exit

salloc: Relinquishing job allocation 25394

Sample SLURM command scripts

In this section are a number of sample SLURM command files for different types of jobs.

Gaussian 03

This is a SLURM job command file to run a Gaussian 03 batch job. The Gaussian 03 program input is in the file and the output of the program will go to the file gaussian.out.

#SBATCH --tasks=1
#SBATCH -t 160:00:00
#SBATCH -o gaussian.out
#SBATCH -p serial 
#SBATCH -A mygroup

module load gaussian/g03

# Copy Gaussian input file to compute node scratch space
cd $LS 
cp /home/mst3k/gaussian/ .

# Define Gaussian scratch directory as compute node scratch space export

g03 < $LS/ > $LS/gaussian.out


This is a SLURM job command file to run a serial job that is compiled with the IMSL libraries.

#SBATCH -n 1
#SBATCH -t 01:00:00
#SBATCH -o output_filename
#SBATCH -p economy 
#SBATCH -A mygroup

module load imsl 



This example is for a serial (one core) Matlab job.

#SBATCH -n 1
#SBATCH -t 01:00:00
#SBATCH -o output_filename
#SBATCH -p economy 
#SBATCH -A mygroup

module load matlab

matlab -nojmv -nodisplay -nosplash -singleCompThread -r "Mymain(myvar1s);exit"


This is a SLURM job command file to run a serial R batch job.

#SBATCH -n 1
#SBATCH -t 01:00:00
#SBATCH -o myRprog.out
#SBATCH -p parallel
#SBATCH -A mygroup

module load R/openmpi/3.1.1

Rscript myRprog.R

This is a SLURM job command file to run a parallel R batch job using the Rmpi or parallel packages.

#SBATCH -n 2
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=3
#SBATCH -t 00:30:00
#SBATCH -o myRprog.out
#SBATCH -p parallel
#SBATCH -A mygroup

module load R/openmpi/3.1.1

mpirun Rscript myRprog.R