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November 2015


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Persistent jobs for Julia.

What does it do?

The package Persist allows running jobs independent of the Julia shell. The jobs are run in the background, either on the local machine or via Slurm, and are not interrupted when the Julia shell exits. This is a convenient and safe way to start long-running calculations, without having to write a Julia script.

Why is this a good idea?

Programming in Julia typically proceeds in two stages: First one writes some exploratory code in the shell (or via Jupyter). Later, when the code becomes more sophisticated, one converts part of the code to a Julia package that is developed in an editor outside the Julia shell. One still uses the Julia shell to test the package.

As code complexity increases, so do the run times. What takes a few seconds initially turns into minutes and then hours of run time. This then makes things inconvenient:

  • While one long-running command is executing, the Julia shell is blocked
  • If the command is started in the background, one may accidentally overwrite or delete data that it is accessing
  • If the Julia shell exists, or the network connection is lost, the background process is aborted

This package Persist circumvents these problems: It allows wrapping a Julia command in a shell script that is run in the background, independent of the Julia shell.

How do I use it?

Here is an example:

using Persist

# Start a calculation in the background
job = persist("hello", ProcessManager) do
    sleep(10)   # Simulate a long-running task
    println("Hello, World!")   # Produce some output
    return [42]   # Return a value

# Do something else

# Check on the background job

# Get the job's result

You can also use Slurm to submit a job:

using Persist

persist("calcpi", SlurmManager) do

# Jobs are written to file, and can be read back in
job = readmgr("calcpi")
println("pi = $(fetch(job))")

How does it work?

Simple, really.

The Julia expression is serialized and written to a file. A shell script is generated that is executed in the background (or via Slurm). This script reads the expression, executes it, and serializes the result to another file. Various commands examine the status of the job. fetch deserializes the result once the job has finished.

This is very similar to the way in which @spawn or @everywhere works, except that the expression is evaluated independently of the Julia shell. The same caveats regarding defining functions and using modules apply.


Create a new job

mgr = @persist name manager expression
mgr = persist(function, name, manager)
  • name::AbstractString: Job name
  • manager::JobManager: Either ProcessManager or SlurmManager
  • expression::Any, function::Any: Expression or function to evaluate
  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object

Read a job descriptor from file

mgr = readmgr(name)
  • name::AbstractString: Job name
  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object

Determine job status

st = status(mgr)
  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object
  • st::JobStatus: Job status; one of job_empty, job_queued, job_runnig, job_done, job_failed

Describe job status

st = jobinfo(mgr)
  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object
  • st::AbstractString: Human-readable job status description, as e.g. output by ps or squeue

Cancel (abort) job

  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object

Determine whether job is done

st = isready(mgr)
  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object
  • st::Bool: Whether the job is done

Wait for a job to complete

  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object After waiting, isready(mgr) == true.

Obtain job result

result = fetch(mgr)
  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object
  • result::Any: Job result (i.e. its return value) Wait for the job to complete, then return the job's result.

Obtain job output

out = getstdout(mgr)
err = getstderr(mgr)
  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object
  • out::AbstractString: Job output (what the job wrote to stdout)
  • err::AbstractString: Job output (what the job wrote to stderr) Partial job output may (or may not) be available while the job is running.

Clean up after a job

  • mgr::JobManager: Job manager object This deletes all information about the job, its result, and its output.