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Easily Submit Multiple Jobs


HTCondor has several convenient features for streamlining high-throughput job submission. This guide provides several examples of how to leverage these features to submit multiple jobs with a single submit file.

Why submit multiple jobs with a single submit file?

Many options exist for streamlining your submission of multiple jobs, and this guide only covers a few examples of what is truly possible with HTCondor.

Submit Multiple Jobs Using queue

All HTCondor submit files require a queue attribute (which must also be the last line of the submit file). By default, queue will submit one job, but users can also configure the queue attribute to behave like a for loop that will submit multiple jobs, with each job varying as predefined by the user.

Below are different HTCondor submit file examples for submitting batches of multiple jobs and, where applicable, how to indicate the differences between jobs in a batch with user-defined variables. Additional examples and use cases are provided further below:

  1. queue <N> - will submit N number of jobs. Examples include performing replications, where the same job must be repeated N number of times, looping through files named with numbers, and looping through a matrix where each job uses information from a specific row or column.
  2. queue <var> from <list> - will loop through a list of file names, parameters, etc. as defined in separate text file (i.e. ). This queue option is very flexible and provides users with many options for submitting multiple jobs.
  3. Organizing Jobs Into Individual Directories - another option that can be helpful in organizing multi-job submissions.

These queue options are also described in the following video from HTCondor Week 2020: 2020 HTCondor Week Presentation

Submitting Multiple Jobs Using HTCondor Video

What makes these queue options powerful is the ability to use user-defined variables to specify details about your jobs in the HTCondor submit file. The examples below will include the use of $(variable_name) to specify details like input file names, file locations (aka paths), etc. When selecting a variable name, users must avoid bespoke HTCondor submit file variables such as Cluster, Process, output, and input, arguments, etc.

1. Use queue N in you HTCondor submit files

When using queue N, HTCondor will submit a total of N jobs, counting from 0 to N - 1 and each job will be assigned a unique Process id number spanning this range of values. Because the Process variable will be unique for each job, it can be used in the submit file to indicate unique filenames and filepaths for each job.

The most straightforward example of using queue N is to submit N number of identical jobs. The example shown below demonstrates how to use the Cluster and Process variables to assign unique names for the HTCondor error, output, and log files for each job in the batch:

# 100jobs.sub
# submit 100 identical jobs

log = job_$(Cluster)_$(Process).log
error = job_$(Cluster)_$(Process).err
output = job_$(Cluster)_$(Process).out

... remaining submit details ...

queue 100

For each job, the appropriate number, 0, 1, 2, ... 99 will replace $(Process). $(Cluster) will be a unique number assigned to the entire 100 job batch. Each time you run condor_submit job.sub, you will be provided with the Cluster number which you will also see in the output produced by the command condor_q.

If a uniquely named results file needs to be returned by each job, $(Process) and $(Cluster) can also be used as arguments, and anywhere else as needed, in the submit file:

arguments = $(Cluster)_$(Process).results

... remaining submit details ...

queue 100

Be sure to properly format the arguments statement according to the executable used by the job.

What if my jobs are not identical? queue N may still be a great option! Additional examples for using this option include:

A. Use integer numbered input files

[user@login]$ ls *.data

In the submit file, use:

transfer_input_files = $(Process).data

... remaining submit details ...

queue 100

B. Specify a row or column number for each job

$(Process) can be used to specify a unique row or column of information in a matrix to be used by each job in the batch. The matrix needs to then be transferred with each job as input. For exmaple:

transfer_input_files = matrix.csv
arguments = $(Process)

... remaining submit details ...

queue 100

The above exmaples assumes that your job is set up to use an argument to specify the row or column to be used by your software.

C. Need N to start at 1

If your input files are numbered 1 - 100 instead of 0 - 99, or your matrix row starts with 1 instead of 0, you can perform basic arithmetic in the submit file:

plusone = $(Process) + 1
NewProcess = $INT(plusone, %d)
arguments = $(NewProcess)

... remaining submit details ...

queue 100

Then use $(NewProcess) anywhere in the submit file that you would have otherwise used $(Process). Note that there is nothing special about the names plusone and NewProcess, you can use any names you want as variables.

2. Submit multiple jobs with one or more distinct variables per job

Think about what's different between each job that needs to be submitted. Will each job use a different input file or combination of software parameters? Do some of the jobs need more memory or disk space? Do you want to use a different software or script on a common set of input files? Using queue <var> from <list> in your submit files can make that possible! <var> can be a single user-defined variable or comma-separated list of variables to be used anywhere in the submit file. <list> is a plain text file that defines <var> for each individual job to be submitted in the batch.

Suppose you need to run a program called compare_states that will run on on the following set of input files:,, and and each input file can analyzed as a separate job.

To create a submit file that will submit all three jobs, first create a text file that lists each .data file (one file per line). This step can be performed directly on the login node, for example:

[user@state-analysis]$ ls *.data > states.txt
[user@state-analysis]$ cat states.txt

Then, in the submit file, following the pattern queue <var> from <list>, replace <var> with a variable name like state and replace <list> with the list of .data files saved in states.txt:

queue state from states.txt

For each line in states.txt, HTCondor will submit a job and the variable $(state) can be used anywhere in the submit file to represent the name of the .data file to be used by that job. For the first job, $(state) will be, for the second job $(state) will be, and so on. For example:

# run_compare_states_per_state.sub

transfer_input_files = $(state)
arguments = $(state)
executable = compare_states

... remaining submit details ...

queue state from states.txt

For a working example of this kind of job submission, see our Word Frequency Tutorial.

Use multiple variables for each job

Let's imagine that each state .data file contains data spanning several years and that each job needs to analyze a specific year of data. Then the states.txt file can be modified to specify this information:

[user@state-analysis]$ cat states.txt, 1995, 2005, 1999, 2005, 2000, 2015

Then modify the queue to define two <var> named state and year:

queue state,year from states.txt

Then the variables $(state) and $(year) can be used in the submit file:

# run_compare_states_by_year.sub
arguments = $(state) $(year)
transfer_input_files = $(state)
executable = compare_states

... remaining submit details ...

queue state,year from states.txt

3. Organizing Jobs Into Individual Directories

One way to organize jobs is to assign each job to its own directory, instead of putting files in the same directory with unique names. To continue our \"compare_states\" example, suppose there\'s a directory for each state you want to analyze, and each of those directories has its own input file named

[user@state-analysis]$ ls -F
compare_states  illinois/  nebraska/  wisconsin/

[user@state-analysis]$ ls -F illinois/

[user@state-analysis]$ ls -F nebraska/

[user@state-analysis]$ ls -F wisconsin/

The HTCondor submit file attribute initialdir can be used to define a specific directory from which each job in the batch will be submitted. The default initialdir location is the directory from which the command condor_submit myjob.sub is executed.

Combining queue var from list with initiadir, each line of will include the path to each state directory and initialdir set to this path for each job:

initial_dir = $(state_dir)
transfer_input_files =   
executable = compare_states

... remaining submit details ...

queue state_dir from state-dirs.txt

Where state-dirs.txt is a list of each directory with state data:

[user@state-analysis]$ cat state-dirs.txt

Notice that executable = compare_states has remained unchanged in the above example. When using initialdir, only the input and output file path (including the HTCondor log, error, and output files) will be changed by initialdir.

In this example, HTCondor will create a job for each directory in state-dirs.txt and use that state\'s directory as the initialdir from which the job will be submitted. Therefore, transfer_input_files = can be used without specifying the path to this file. Any output generated by the job will then be returned to the initialdir location.