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User-launched Containers with Singularity

The OSG pilot container can be launched by users in order to run jobs on resources they have access to. The most common use case, documented here, is to start the pilot container inside a Slurm batch job that is launched by the user.

This is a great way to add personal resources to the Open Science Pool to increase throughput for a specific workflow.

Before Starting

In order to configure the container, you will need:

  1. A registered resource in OSG Topology; resource registration allows OSG to do proper usage accounting and maintain contacts in case of security incidents.
  2. An authentication token from the OSG. Please contact OSG support to request a token for your user.

Launching Inside Slurm

To launch inside Slurm, one needs to write a small job control script; the details will vary from site-to-site and the following is given as an example for running on compute hosts with 24 cores:

#SBATCH --job-name=osg-glidein
#SBATCH -p compute
#SBATCH -n 24
#SBATCH -t 48:00:00
#SBATCH --output=osg-glidein-%j.log

export TOKEN="put_your_provided_token_here"

# Set this so that the OSG accouting knows where the jobs ran
export GLIDEIN_Site="SDSC"
export GLIDEIN_ResourceName="Comet"

# This is an important setting limiting what jobs your glideins will accept.
# At the minimum, the expression should limit the "Owner" of the jobs to
# whatever your username is on the OSG _submit_ side
export GLIDEIN_Start_Extra="Owner == \"my_osgconnect_username\""

module load singularity
singularity run --contain \
                --bind /cvmfs \
                --scratch /pilot \

The above example rebuilds the Docker container on each host. If you plan to run large numbers of these jobs, you can download the Docker container once and create a local Singularity image:

$ singularity build osgvo-pilot.sif docker://opensciencegrid/osgvo-docker-pilot:3.6-release

In this case, the singularity run command should be changed to:

singularity run --contain --bind /cvmfs --scratch /pilot osgvo-pilot.sif

Note, unlike the site-launched container, the Singularity container above cannot run payloads inside a separate image.

Limiting Resource Usage

By default, the OSG pilot container will allow jobs to utilize the entire machines's resources (CPUs, memory). This is regardless of how many cores or how much memory you requested in your SLURM batch job. If you do not have the full machine allocated for your use, you should specify limits to what HTCondor will offer. This is done by specifying environment variables when launching the container.

To limit the number of CPUs available to jobs (thus limiting the number of simultaneous jobs), add the following to your singularity run command:

   --env NUM_CPUS=<X>

where <X> is the number of CPUs you want to allow jobs to use.

The NUM_CPUS environment variable will tell the pilot not to offer more than the given number of CPUs to jobs.

To limit the total amount of memory available to jobs, add the following to your docker run command:

    --env MEMORY=<X>

where <X> is the total amount of memory (in MB) you want to allow jobs to use.

The MEMORY environment variable will tell the pilot not to offer more than the given amount of memory to jobs.


If you requested a specific amount of memory for your SLURM batch job, for example with the --mem argument, you should set MEMORY to be about 100 MB less than that, for the following reasons:

The pilot will place jobs on hold if they exceed their requested memory, but it may not notice high memory usage immediately. In addition, the processes that manage jobs also use some amount of memory. Therefore it is important to give the container some extra room.

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