NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery Since 1974

Cori for JGI

NERSC is pleased to provide compute capacity on its flagship supercomputer, Cori, to JGI users. Burst buffer, Shifter, and all other features available to Haswell Cori nodes are available via a new JGI "quality of service" (QOS). At this time, early access to a specialized partition is being made available to users willing to test and benchmark their software and pipelines. We expect the partition to be available to all JGI users for production use in Jan 2018. If you'd like early access, please file a ticket or email

Cori Features and Other Things to Know

Cori offers many additional useful features and capabilities that will be of use to JGI researchers: 


Unlike Genepool, Cori uses the SLURM job scheduler, which is incompatible with UGE. We've prepared a separate page to get you started on converting submission scripts and commands to SLURM here, and the NERSC webpages on SLURM for Cori are here. Complete SLURM documentation is here, and you may also find this cheatsheet useful.

The batch queues on Cori and Denovo are not configured identically. Cori and Denovo have different capabilities and maintenance cycles, and we're still learning how best to configure these machines for the JGI workloads. We welcome feedback from you on your needs and experience. If you need to write scripts that know which machine they're running on, you can use the $NERSC_HOST environment variable to check where you are.

Cori scratch

Cori scratch is a Lustre filesystem, accessible through Cori and Edison, but not on Genepool or Denovo. The $CSCRATCH environment variable will point to your Cori scratch directory. Like /projectb/scratch ($BSCRATCH), Cori scratch is purged periodically, so take care to back up your files. You can find information on how to do that on the HPSS Data Archive page.

BSCRATCH is also mounted on Cori and Edison, so you can use that if you need to see your files on all machines.

Note that the performance of the different filesystems may vary, depending partly on what your application is doing. It's worth experimenting with your data in different locations to see what gives the best results.

The Burst Buffer

The Burst buffer is a fast filesystem optimized for applications demanding high I/O. The Burst Buffer is particularly suitable for applications that perform lots of random-access I/O, or that read files more than once.

To access the Burst Buffer you need to add directives to your batch job to make a reservation. A reservation can be dynamic or persistent. A dynamic reservation lasts only as long as the job that requested it, the disk space is reclaimed once the job ends. A persistent reservation outlives the job that created it, and can be shared among many jobs.

Use dynamic reservations for checkpoint files, for files that will be accessed randomly (i.e. not read through in a streaming manner) or just for local scratch space. Cori batch nodes don't have local disk, unlike the Genepool batch nodes, so a dynamic reservation serves that role well.

Use persistent reservations to store data that is shared between jobs and heavily used, e.g. reference DBs or similar data. The data on a persistent reservation is stored with normal unix filesystem permissions, and anyone can mount your persistent reservation in their batch job, so you can use them to share heavily used data among workflows belonging to a group, not just for your own private work.

You can access multiple persistent reservations in a single batch job, but any batch job can have only one dynamic reservation.

The per-user limit on Burst Buffer space is 50 TB. If the sum of your persistent and dynamic reservations reaches that total, further jobs that require Burst Buffer space will not start until some of those reservations are removed.

Your consultants will be providing a persistent Burst Buffer reservation with the NCBI reference BLAST databases soon, similar to the local DBs on the Genepool batch nodes.

This is a simple example showing how to use the Burst Buffer. See the links below for full documentation on how to use it.

#SBATCH --time=00:10:00
#SBATCH --constraint haswell
#DW jobdw capacity=240GB access_mode=striped type=scratch

echo "My BB reservation is at $DW_JOB_STRIPED"
df -h .

The output from a particular run of this script is below:

My BB reservation is at /var/opt/cray/dws/mounts/batch/6501112_striped_scratch/
Filesystem                                    Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/var/opt/cray/dws/mounts/registrations/24301  242G   99M  242G   1% /var/opt/cray/dws/mounts/batch/6501112_striped_scratch

More information on getting started with Burst Buffer is here. There are slides from a training session on the Burst Buffer on the Genepool training page.


Shifter is Docker-like software for running containers on NERSC systems. More information on Shifter is available here, and Shifter training slides are also available. The main advantages of using Shifter are:

  • Using containers makes your workflow portable, across Cori, Denovo, Edison, and to cloud resources
  • You no longer need to depend on system features, such as specific compiler versions, software libraries or other tools
  • Because Shifter uses Docker containers, you can build and debug containers on your laptop or desktop, then be sure they will run the same way on Cori or other NERSC platforms.

Shifter exists because Docker cannot be safely run on NERSC machines. Docker requires too much access to the system, anyone who can run a container can essentially access the entire machine. Shifter implements a subset of the same functionality that Docker provides, and can run Docker containers unmodified. The process for building a container and running it with Shifter is roughly as follows:

  • use Docker on a laptop or desktop machine to build a Docker container for your software
  • push that container to Dockerhub or another Docker container registry
  • use Shifter on Cori, Edison or Denovo to pull that image to the NERSC Shifter registry
  • use Shifter on a batch node to run that container, and perform useful work.

Note that Shifter is not available on Genepool, the kernel version there is too old to support containers. This is just one reason why we're commissioning Denovo.

The JGI has a containerization project, intended to provide standardized containers for the majority of JGI use-cases. If you need a container for a tool or pipeline, check with your consultants, you may find it's already been done for you. Documentation for the containerization project will be made available soon.

Modules and Bioinformatic Software

Unlike Genepool, very few NERSC software modules are available for user software. We encourage users to use alternatives wherever possible, which will be more maintainable and portable to other platforms. If you have Genepool module software that is critical to migrating your workflow to Cori, please talk to a consultant.

Alternatives to using software modules are:

  • Shifter, with the software installed in a Docker container
  • For Python, there are Anaconda virtual environments, which allow you to install python modules in a clean and reproducible manner. See this tutorial for more information about using Anaconda at NERSC
  • R modules can also be installed with Anaconda, contact your consultants if you want help with that

How to access JGI Cori Compute Capacity

Access to Cori compute capacity will only be made available on request, at this time.The JGI capacity will be in production use from January 2018, we are using the period until then to learn how best to match JGI workflows to Cori's capabilities. We are requesting that users who have early access give us feedback on their experience to help us through this learning period.

Access is provided via a special "quality of service" or QOS. You will also need to specify the SLURM account under which the job will run. Do not request other standard Cori partitions (ie debug, regular) or QOS settings (ie low, premium). 

Note also that the JGI's Cori capacity is entirely on Haswell nodes, and should be specified as such. All nodes are Cori's standard Haswell nodes: 64 hyperthreaded cores (32 actual) and 128GB memory. 

For a single-slotted job, you would minimally need:

sbatch -C haswell --qos=jgi -A youraccount

Another example, to request an interactive session on a single node with all CPUs (and thus memory):

salloc -C haswell --qos=jgi -A youraccount -N 1 -n 64

Note that 'youraccount' in the above example is the project name you submit to, not your login account. So fungalp, gentechp etc. You will be assigned to a project account based on your Genepool projects when you are given access to the JGI partition.

Accounts on Cori have associated quotas for CPU resources, and it's important that you pay attention to your use of resources to avoid using all the quota for the account you work with. You can check the plots of the account usage to see the trend for your account, the fitted line in the plots is based on the last week of activity.

If you want a programmatic way to check account usage, you can use the scripts in /global/project/projectdirs/genepool/www/jgi-cori-quota for a simple calculation. Just source the appropriate file for your account (e.g. /global/project/projectdirs/genepool/www/jgi-cori-quota/ and you will have three environment variables, telling you how much quota our account has, how much is left, and how long that quota will last based on the last week of usage.

For example, this shows that the fungalp account has 1.6 million hours left, and that at the current rate of use that will last about 53 days:

> cat /global/project/projectdirs/genepool/www/jgi-cori-quota/  

Note that the 'hours' here are NERSC-hours, so remember the charging factors for Cori. It does not correspond to wall-clock hours!

Current Settings for Cori's JGI Partition

Job limits 500 submitted jobs
Run time limits 72 h
Partition size 192 nodes
Node configuration 32-core Haswell CPUs (64 hyperthreads), 128GB memory