Halt a job

When SCR is configured to write datasets to cache, one needs to take care when terminating a job early so that SCR can copy datasets from cache to the parallel file system before the job allocation ends. This section describes methods to cleanly halt a job, including detection and termination of a hanging job.

scr_halt and the halt file

The recommended method to stop an SCR application is to use the scr_halt command. The command must be run from within the prefix directory, or otherwise, the prefix directory of the target job must be specified as an argument.

A number of different halt conditions can be specified. In most cases, the scr_halt command communicates these conditions to the running application via the halt.scr file, which is stored in the hidden .scr directory within the prefix directory. The application can determine when to exit by calling SCR_Should_exit.

Additionally, one can set SCR_HALT_EXIT=1 to configure SCR to exit the job if it detects an active halt condition. In that case, the SCR library reads the halt file when the application calls SCR_Init and during SCR_Complete_output after each complete checkpoint. If a halt condition is satisfied, all tasks in the application call exit.

Halt after next checkpoint

You can instruct an SCR job to halt after completing its next successful checkpoint:


To run scr_halt from outside of a prefix directory, specify the target prefix directory like so:

scr_halt /p/lscratcha/user1/simulation123

You can instruct an SCR job to halt after completing some number of checkpoints via the --checkpoints option. For example, to instruct a job to halt after 10 more checkpoints, use the following:

scr_halt --checkpoints 10

If the last of the checkpoints is unsuccessful, the job continues until it completes a successful checkpoint. This ensures that SCR has a successful checkpoint to flush before it halts the job.

Halt before or after a specified time

It is possible to instruct an SCR job to halt after a specified time using the --after option. The job will halt on its first successful checkpoint after the specified time. For example, you can instruct a job to halt after “12:00pm today” via:

scr_halt --after '12:00pm today'

It is also possible to instruct a job to halt before a specified time using the --before option. For example, you can instruct a job to halt before “8:30am tomorrow” via:

scr_halt --before '8:30am tomorrow'

For the “halt before” condition to be effective, one must also set the SCR_HALT_SECONDS parameter. When SCR_HALT_SECONDS is set to a positive number, SCR checks how much time is left before the specified time limit. If the remaining time in seconds is less than or equal to SCR_HALT_SECONDS, SCR halts the job. The value of SCR_HALT_SECONDS does not affect the “halt after” condition.

It is highly recommended that SCR_HALT_SECONDS be set so that the SCR library can impose a default “halt before” condition using the end time of the job allocation. This ensures the latest checkpoint can be flushed before the allocation is lost.

It is important to set SCR_HALT_SECONDS to a value large enough that SCR has time to completely flush (and rebuild) files before the allocation expires. Consider that a checkpoint may be taken just before the remaining time is less than SCR_HALT_SECONDS. If a code checkpoints every X seconds and it takes Y seconds to flush files from the cache and rebuild, set SCR_HALT_SECONDS = X + Y + Delta, where Delta is some positive value to provide additional slack time.

One may also set the halt seconds via the --seconds option to scr_halt. Using the scr_halt command, one can set, change, and unset the halt seconds on a running job.

NOTE: If any scr_halt commands are specified as part of the batch script before the first run starts, one must then use scr_halt to set the halt seconds for the job rather than the SCR_HALT_SECONDS parameter. The scr_halt command creates the halt file, and if a halt file exists before a job starts to run, SCR ignores any value specified in the SCR_HALT_SECONDS parameter.

Halt immediately

Sometimes, you need to halt an SCR job immediately, and there are two options for this. You may use the --immediate option:

scr_halt --immediate

This command first updates the halt file, so that the job will not be restarted once stopped. Then, it kills the current run.

If for some reason the --immediate option fails to work, you may manually halt the job. [1] First, issue a simple scr_halt so the job will not restart, and then manually kill the current run using mechanisms provided by the resource manager, e.g., scancel for SLURM and apkill for ALPS. When using mechanisms provided by the resource manager to kill the current run, be careful to cancel the job step and not the job allocation. Canceling the job allocation destroys the cache.

For SLURM, to get the job step id, type: squeue -s. Then be sure to include the job id and step id in the scancel argument. For example, if the job id is 1234 and the step id is 5, then use the following commands:

scancel 1234.5

Do not just type scancel 1234 – be sure to include the job step id.

For ALPS, use apstat to get the apid of the job step to kill. Then, follow the steps as described above: execute scr_halt followed by the kill command apkill <apid>.

[1]On Cray/ALPS, scr_halt --immediate is not yet supported. The alternate method described in the text must be used instead.

Catch a hanging job

If an application hangs, SCR may not be given the chance to copy files from cache to the parallel file system before the allocation expires. To avoid losing significant work due to a hang, SCR attempts to detect if a job is hanging, and if so, SCR attempts to kill the job step so that it can be restarted in the allocation.

On some systems, SCR employs the io-watchdog library for this purpose. For more information on this tool, see http://code.google.com/p/io-watchdog.

On systems where io-watchdog is not available, SCR uses a generic mechanism based on the expected time between checkpoints as specified by the user. If the time between checkpoints is longer than expected, SCR assumes the job is hanging. Two SCR parameters determine how many seconds should pass between I/O phases in an application, i.e. seconds between consecutive calls to SCR_Start_output. These are SCR_WATCHDOG_TIMEOUT and SCR_WATCHDOG_TIMEOUT_PFS. The first parameter specifies the time to wait when SCR writes checkpoints to in-system storage, e.g. SSD or RAM disk, and the second parameter specifies the time to wait when SCR writes checkpoints to the parallel file system. The reason for the two timeouts is that writing to the parallel file system generally takes much longer than writing to in-system storage, and so a longer timeout period is useful in that case.

When using this feature, be careful to check that the job does not hang near the end of its allocation time limit, since in this case, SCR may not kill the run with enough time before the allocation ends. If you suspect the job to be hanging and you deem that SCR will not kill the run in sufficient time, manually cancel the run as described above.

Combine, list, change, and unset halt conditions

It is possible to specify multiple halt conditions. To do so, simply list each condition in the same scr_halt command or issue several commands. For example, to instruct a job to halt after 10 checkpoints or before “8:30am tomorrow”, which ever comes earlier, you could issue the following command:

scr_halt --checkpoints 10 --before '8:30am tomorrow'

The following sequence also works:

scr_halt --checkpoints 10
scr_halt --before '8:30am tomorrow'

You may list the current settings in the halt file with the --list option, e.g.,:

scr_halt --list

You may change a setting by issuing a new command to overwrite the current value.

Finally, you can unset some halt conditions by prepending unset- to the option names. See the scr_halt man page for a full listing of unset options. For example, to unset the “halt before” condition on a job, type the following:

scr_halt --unset-before

Remove the halt file

Sometimes, especially during testing, you may want to run in an existing allocation after halting a previous run. When SCR detects a halt file with a satisfied halt condition, it immediately exits. This is the desired effect when trying to halt a job, however this mechanism also prevents one from intentionally running in an allocation after halting a previous run. Along these lines, know that SCR registers a halt condition whenever the application calls SCR_Finalize.

When there is a halt file with a satisfied halt condition, a message is printed to stdout to indicate why SCR is halting. To run in such a case, first remove the satisfied halt conditions. You can unset the conditions or reset them to appropriate values. Another approach is to remove the halt file via the --remove option. This deletes the halt file, which effectively removes all halt conditions. For example, to remove the halt file from a job, type:

scr_halt --remove