Version 0.75


    use HPCI;

    my $group = HPCI->group(
        cluster => ($ENV{HPCI_CLUSTER} // 'uni'),
        name => 'analysis_A',
        command => '...'
        name => 'analysis_B',
        command => '...'
        name => 'analysis_C',
        command => '...'
        name => 'report',
        command => '...'
        pre_reqs => [ qw(analysis_A analysis_B analysis_C) ],
        dep => 'report'

    my $status_info = $group->execute;

    my $exit_status = 0;
    for my $stage ( qw(analysis_A analysis_B analysis_C report) ) {
        if (my $stat = $status_info->{$stage}[-1]{exit_status}) {
            $exit_status ||= $stat;
            print stderr "Stage $stage failed, status $stat!\n";

        exit(0); # all stages completed without error


HPCI (High Performance Computing Interface) provides an interface to a range of types of computer aggregations (clusters, clouds, ...). (The rest of this document will use cluster henceforth to refer to any type of aggregation that is supported by HPCI.)

A cluster is defined as a software interface that allows running multiple programs on separate compute elements (nodes).

HPCI uses an HPCD (High Performance Computing Driver) module to translate its standard interface into the appropriate access mechanisms for the type of cluster that is selected. (If you have used the DBI/DBD modules for accessing databases, this will seem very familiar.)

The goal of this HPCI/HPCD split is to allow users to write programs that make use of cluster facilities in a portable manner. If there is a reason to run the same program using a different type of cluster, it should only require change the cluster definition attributes provided to one parent object creation; the rest of code need not know or care about the changed cluster type. Programs which are likely to be run on different cluster types will usually be written to get the cluster attribute information from a configuration file, or command line arguments - so the program itself need not change at all.

Running a program on different types of clusters can happen for a number of reasons. An organization might have access to multiple types of cluster, such as an in-house cluster plus an external cloud. Scholarly research often shares programs both to allow similar research, or to validate existing research results.

HPCD modules can provide cluster-specific extensions. That can either be a different kind of functionality, or it can be as simple as allowing the teminology familiar to users of that cluster type to be used in place of the generic terminology provided by HPCI. However, using such extensions makes it harder to move to a different cluster type. So, actually making use of such extensions must be considered carefully.

The life cycle of a group

A group is the main mechanism for using HPCI. It is an object that manages a group of computation steps (called stages), distributing them across the cluster and keeping track of various housekeeping details like when each stage can be run, checking for the result of each completed stage run, deciding whether a failure should cause a stage to be retried to to prevent other stages from being executed, and collecting the status for each stage.

The life cycle of running a group of commands on a cluster is:

create group

A group object is created using the HPCI "class method" group. HPCI isn't really a class, it just appears to be one. Its group "class method" actually delegates creation of a group object to the HPCD module that is indicated by the cluster attribute and it returns an cluster-specific group object that supports the HPCI interface.

create stages

A stage is created for each command that is to be executed on a separate node of the cluster. This is created using the group object's method stage.

define dependency ordering between the stages

An important reason for running a group of jobs on a cluster is the ability to use multiple computers to run portions of the computation at the same time, rather than having them compete for the rsources of a single computer. However, often some stages will depend upon the output of other stages. Such a dependent stage cannot start executing until all pre-requisite stages have completed. Specifying such dependency requirements is done with the group method add_deps.


Finally, the group method execute will run the entire set of stages. It does not return until all stages have completed (or have been skipped). Each stage will normally be run once, however it is possible for some stages to be retried under some failure conditions. A failure of one stage (after retry possibilities have been exhausted) can be a trigger for completely skipping the execution of other stages. Each separate execution of a stage (original or retry) is managed with an internal object called a job - but a user program won't see job objects directly.

As many stages as possible are run simultaneously. This is limited by the specified dependencies, by cluster-specific driver limits, and by user-specified limits on concurrent execution.

The objects that calling code deals with directly are a group object to manage a group of stages, and a stage object for each separately run job. Internally, there are also job objects for each retry of a stage, and a log object for logging the execution process (alternately, the user can provide their own Log4Perl compatible log object for HPCI to use - this may be of use if you wish to merge logging of multiple groups and/or of other processing within your program together in a single log).

There are also some facilities to provide local customization of the standard usage of HPCI (see "Local Customization" below).

Output Tree Layout

There are a number of output files and directories created during a group execution.

The default layout of these is:

  <base_dir>                     "."
    <group_dir>                  <base_dir>/<name>-<YYYYMMDD-hhmmss>
      <log>                      <group_dir>/<name>.log
      <stage_dir>                <group_dir>/<stage_name>
        <script_file>            <stage_dir>/
        <job_dir>                <stage_dir>/<retry_number>
        final_retry              symlink to final <job_dir>

Many of these files/directories can be re-assigned to different location using group or stage attributes - shown above is the default layout. Commonly, you will specifically use the base_dir attribute to choose a location other than the current directory for placing the tree; or else use the group_dir attribute if you want to choose a location that does not create a sub-directory for you. (If this is an already existing directory that is being re-used you may end up with a mixture of old and new contents that are hard to figure out.)


The top level of all the generated output. It defaults to ".", but can be specified explicitly when the group is created with the attribute base_dir.


By default, a new directory is created under base_dir. Its name is name-YYYYMMDD-hhmmss - the name of the group along with a timestamp of when the execution started. This can be over-ridden when the group is created by providing the group attribute group_dir.


The automatically provided log is written to the file "group.log" directly under group_dir. This logs information about the execution of the entire group of stages. See Logging Attributes of group object below for ways of changing the default setting.


Each stage creates a sub-directory beneath group_dir with the same name as the stage. An alternate name can be used by providing the dir attribute when the stage object is created.


The script created to be executed on the cluster node. This wraps the specified command with additional logic to pass on environment and config info, and to set output redirection. It is called "" and placed in stage_dir.


A sub-directory is created under stage_dir for each attempt to run the command. Usually, there will only be a single attempt. However, if the cluster driver provides mechanisms for detecting recoverable issues and then retries a command there can be more than one attempt; or alternately, if a pre-requisite stage fails there might be no attempt made (in that case, though, the entire stage_dir directory would not even get created). These directories are simply named with the retry number ("0", "1", ...).


Within each job_dir, the files "stdout" and "stderr" collect the standard output and standard error output from that (re)try attempt to run the command.


A symlink named "final_retry" is created within stage_dir that points to the job_dir of the final (re)try. Since you often don't care as much about the initial run tries as you do about the last one, this symlink provides a consistant access path to that final retry.

HPCI "Class" Methods

You can pretend that HPCI is a class with one primary class method named group.

There a few other class methods used for localization purposes, they are decribed below in "Local Customization".

group method

The group method creates and returns a group object, which you can treat like a HPCI::Group object. (In fact, it really returns an object of class HPCD::cluster::Group, but if you ignore that fact then you can trivially have your program run on some other cluster type.)

group object

The description of attributes and methods for the group object given here describe the generic attributes and how they are treated for all cluster types. Individual cluster drivers can modify this behaviour and can provide additional attributes and methods for cluster-specific purposes.

The one necessary attribute is cluster. For some specific cluster types there may be additional attributes required for connecting to the cluster software (authentification, usage class info, etc.).


The cluster attribute specifies which type of cluster is to be used. This is the only required attribute. (Some cluster types may have additional attributes that are required for specifying connection and authentification info.)


The attribute cluster_specific is optional. If provided, it should contain a hashref of hashrefs. If the value specified for the cluster attribute is present as a key in the cluster_specific hash, the corresponding value will be used as a set of attribute values when the group is created. Its elements will replace or augment any values for the same attribute name provided to the group method. This will normally be used if the program can be dynamically configured for different cluster types, and there are different arg settings required for the different types of cluster.

Basic Attributes of group object


The name you give to a group is used for creating the directory where output is stored, and also in log messages. A default name "default_group_name" is provided if you do not specific an explicit name. Using the default name is adequate in simple programs which only create one group, but for more complicated programs giving separate names to each group is necessary to easily identify the output of each group. The value of name may also be used by the cluster-specific driver to provide an identifier name (or the basis of one) to the underlying cluster, if it needs one.


The attribute stage_defaults is optional. If provided, it should contain a hashref. This hash will be used as default values for every stage created by this group.

Directory Layout Attributes of group object


If none of the other directory layout attributes are used to over-ride this, this attribute specifies the directory in which all output directories and files will be created. This is usually an existing directory; it defaults to the current directory ".".


This directory is usually created to contain the outputs of the group execution. By default, it is directly under base_dir with a name that consists of the group name attribute and a timestamp (e.g. "T_Definition-20150521-153256").

If you provide an explicit value for this parameter, then it should not be an existing directory containing previous results. (If it is, the log file will be appended to the previous one, but the stage directories will over-write equivalently named directories and files that are created in this run, while leaving unchanged any that did not recur, so you'll have a mix of old and new contents.) The names of files and directories created under group_dir are chosen to be consistent and easy to find automatically.

Logging Attributes of group object

An HPCI group logs its activities using a Log::Log4perl logger. The logger can either be provided by the caller, or else HPCI will create its own.


This a Log::Log4perl::Logger object. If it is provided as an attribute to the group creation call, it will be used as it is, and the other logging attributes will be ignored.

If it is not provided by the user, a new Log::Log4perl::Logger object will be created using the attributes below to define where it is logged to. This created logger will send all log entries to a file, as well as sending all info and higher log entries to stderr.


If this attribute is provided (and the log attribute is not provided) it will be used as the full pathname of a file where the log will be written. If it is not provided, it will use the path log_dir/log_file by default.


If neither log or log_path is provided, this attribute can be used to specify the directory where the log file is to be written. By default, it uses group_dir.


If neither log or log_path is provided, this attribute can be used to specify the file name to be written in the log directory. By default, it uses the constant name "group.log".


You can provide this attribute to change the default log level setting from "info" to any of debug info warn error fatal.

log_no_stderr, log_no_file

Normally, the default log is written to both stderr and to the log file. Either of those can be suppressed by setting the corresponding attribute to a true value. These attributes have no effect if the user proviedes their own logger instead of using the default one.

Operational Attributes of group object


This attribute specifies the maximum number of stages that will be executing at one time. The default setting of 0 allows as many stages as possible (all those that are not waiting for a pre-requisite stage to complete) to run at the same time.


This attribute is set internally while stages are executed. It contains the final result status from each stage run that has completed. The execute method returns this value when execution completes, so you will usually not need to access it explicitly yourself.

This value is a hashref (indexed by stage name). The values are arrayrefs (indexed by run number 0..n). For each run, there is a hash. The key exit_status contains the exit status of the run. If the stage was never run, exit_status instead contains a text message listing the reason that it was skipped.

Environment Passing Attributes of group object

You can set up a set of enviroment variables that will be provided to all stages. (You can also set variables that are only for individual stages - if so, they will modify any set you provide in the group.)

See HPCI::Env for a description of these.

Method stage of group object

The method stage is used to create a new stage object. Its characteristics are described below.

The group object keeps track of all stage objects created within that group so that they can all be managed properly when the execute method is invoked.

Method add_deps of group object

The method add_deps is used to specify pre-requisite/dependent relationships. It takes either a hashref or a list containing pairs. One of the keys must be either pre_req or pre_reqs, another must be either dep or deps.

The value for each of these keys can be either a scalar, or an arrayref of scalar values. A scalar value can be either a stage object (a reference), the exact name of a stage object (a string), or a pattern that matches the name of zero or more stages (a regexp).

HPCI will ensure that the stage or all of the stages specified for pre_req or pre_reqs have completed execution before any of the dep (or deps) stages is allowed to start executing.

The plural forms are provided for convenience - often the output file from one preparation stage is required by many others, or the output from many processing stages is needed by a stage that merges results into a summary report. Rather than having to loop over the pre_reqs and deps and calling add_deps individually for every individual dependency, a single call will handle the entire combination.

Allowing a regexp to match no stages at all makes it possible to write an add_deps call for stages that are optional - no dependency will be added if the optional stage was not created this run.

While it is recommended for code readability that you use the singular form (dep or pre_req) is you are providing a single stage, and the plural form (deps or pre_reqs) if you are providing a list of stages, either can be used.

The add_deps method can be called multiple times. HPCI will accumlate the dependencies appropriately.

It is an error to provide a sequence of dependencies that form a cycle in which a stage directly or indirectly has itself as a pre-requisite. (Such a stage could never run. HPCI will detect when all remaining stages are blocked by pre-requisites and abort, but that might be after numerous stages have already been executed.)

METHOD execute of group object

The execute method is the final goal of building the group. It schedules the execution of individual stages. It waits for pre-requisites before running a stage. It provides for re-running a stage if a soft failure has occurred that allows a retry. If a failure that cannot be retried occurs, it can skip scheduling dependent stages, or even stop scheduling all new stages.

Stage Object



A unique name attribute must be provided for stages. It is a string. There is no default value provided.


The command attribute must be provided before the group is executed. It can either be provided as a string attribute when the stage is created, or by using the one of the command-setting methods provided by the stage class.

See HPCI::Stage for more details about the command setting methods.


The dir attribute is optional. It specifies the direcory in which files related to the stage are placed. By default, it is group_dir/stage_name. You will usually not need to change this.


The cluster attribute is automatically passed on fro mthe group to each stage. You are not likely to need this.


The group that created a stage is automatically passed on (as a weak reference) to the stage. You are not likely to need to use this attribute in user code.


The resources_required and retry_resources_required are used to define resources that will be required by the stage when it executes. These attributes are somewhat cluster specific - each cluster has its own set of requirements for how a job submission must specify the sort of resources that it will require.

The resources_required attribute is a hash, specifying the value for each resource that is to be considered.

The retry_resources_required attribute is also a hash. For each resource, you can specify an array of values. If the cluster driver is able to detect that a run failed because the resource was inadequate, it will retry the run with the next larger value from this list.

See HPCI::Stage for more details about resources.


This attribute specifies an integer number of time to retry the stage before comcluding that it has actually failed. You might use this if your cluster has some nodes that work differently from others and a stage might fail on one type of node but succeed on another.

These retries are done after any cluster-specific retry mechanisms have been used.

The default value for this attribute is 0 (zero), giving no forced retries unless you specifically ask for them.

failure_action ('abort_group', 'abort_deps'*, or 'ignore')

Specifies the action to take if this stage fails (terminates with a non-zero status).

There are three string values that it can have:

- abort_deps (default)

If the stage fails, then any stages which depend upon it (recursively) are not run. The group continues executing until all stages which are not dependent upon this stage (including those that have not yet been initiated) complete execution.

- abort_group

If the stage fails, then no other stages are started. The group simply waits until stages that have already been started complete and then returns.

- ignore

Execution continues unchanged, any dependent stages will be run when they are no longer blocked.

abort_group_on_failure abort_deps_on_failure ignore_failure

As an alternative to providing a value to the failute_action attribute when you create a stage, you can instead provide one of the pseudo-attributes 'abort_group_on_failure', 'abort_deps_on_failure', or 'ignore_failure' with a true value to specify 'abort_group', 'abort_deps', or 'ignore' respectively.


The state is mostly an internal attribute but after the group has finished execution you can use this to check whether the stage was run successfully. After execution, state will either be 'pass" or 'fail'.

Environment passing attributes

You can set up a set of environment variables that will be provided to this stage. It will use set defined for the group as a basis (if such a set was defined for the group), but that set can be changed for individual stages or you can have no group default and only provide a set to specific stages as needed. See HPCI::Env for further details.


command creation

There are a number of helper methods to assist in building different types of commands to be provided for the command attribute. See HPCI::Stage for details.

Local Configuration

TODO: write this section - describe the HPCI::LocalConfig module - describe the mechanism for adding extra roles to group, stage, etc.


This is an early public release of HPCI, and at present, there are only two drivers available.

Only one cluster type is directly included within the HPCI package. The cluster type HPCD::uni runs on a "cluster" of only one machine. It simply uses fork to submit individual stages and has facility for retries and timeouts. This is the default cluster type used for testing, as it will work natively on all types of Unix systems. It is also possible to use this driver as a fallback, in cases where the only available "real" cluster is not accessable for some reason.

Additionally, there is the HPCD::SGE driver available on CPAN. It has seen heavy use within Boutros Lab.

Now that these packages have been released, it is likely new cluster drivers will be written. People interested in developing drivers for additional cluster types should contact the authors of this package to co-ordinate releases, features needed, etc. at

Additionally, you may wish to subscribe to the email list mentioned at https::// This is expected to be a low volume discussion group, although the future will tell what the actual volume will be.

As additional capabilities of new cluster types are addressed, and as different control needs used at other organizations are identified; this interface will surely change. As far as possible, such changes will be done in an upwardly compatible manner, but until a few more drivers have been integrated there is the possibility of changes that are not fully backward compatible. Watch the release notes for warnings of such issues. At some point there will be a 1.0.0 release, at which point this expectation of (limited) incompatible future change will be dropped. After that point, incompatible changes will only be made for critical reasons.

The reason for separate distribution of cluster-specific HPCD packages are fairly obvious:


The maintainers of the HPCI package do not have access to every possible cluster type, and it unlikely that anyone will have access to all supported cluster types from one location, so the driver modules will need to be tested separately anyhow.


A user of HPCI is equally not going to have need to access every type of cluster that exists, so they will probably prefer to only download the driver modules that they actually need.



Describes the interface common to all HPCI Group objects, regardless of the particular type of cluster that is actually being used to run the stages. In the future, the common interface may change somewhat as supprt for additional cluster types is added and a better understanding of the common features is achieved.


Describes the interface common to stage object returned by all HPCI Stage objects, regardless of the particular type of cluster that is actually being used to run the stages. The common interface may change somewhat as supprt for additional cluster types is added and a better understanding of the common features is achieved.


Describes the logger parameters in more detail.


Describes the environment passing parameters in more detail.


Describes the group interface unique to a specific type of cluster, including any limitations or extensions to the generic interface.


Describes the stage interface unique to a specific type of cluster, including any limitations or extensions to the generic interface.


Christopher Lalansingh - Boutros Lab

John Macdonald - Boutros Lab


Paul Boutros, Phd, PI - Boutros Lab

The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research