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Storage systems differ in terms of capacity, streaming bandwidth, IOPS rate, etc. Price and efficiency don't allow to have it all in one. That is why fast parallel filesystems at ZIH have restrictions with regards to age of files and quota. The mechanism of workspaces enables users to better manage their HPC data.

The concept of workspaces is common and used at a large number of HPC centers.


A workspace is a directory, with an associated expiration date, created on behalf of a user in a certain filesystem.

Once the workspace has reached its expiration date, it gets moved to a hidden directory and enters a grace period. Once the grace period ends, the workspace is deleted permanently. The maximum lifetime of a workspace depends on the storage system. All workspaces can be extended a certain amount of times.


Use the faster filesystems if you need to write temporary data in your computations, and use the capacity oriented filesystems if you only need to read data for your computations. Please keep track of your data and move it to a capacity oriented filesystem after the end of your computations.

Workspace Management

List Available Filesystems

To list all available filesystems for using workspaces use:

marie@login$ ws_find -l
Available filesystems:

List Current Workspaces

To list all workspaces you currently own, use:

marie@login$ ws_list
id: test-workspace
     workspace directory  : /scratch/ws/0/marie-test-workspace
     remaining time       : 89 days 23 hours
     creation time        : Thu Jul 29 10:30:04 2021
     expiration date      : Wed Oct 27 10:30:04 2021
     filesystem name      : scratch
     available extensions : 10

Allocate a Workspace

To create a workspace in one of the listed filesystems use ws_allocate. It is necessary to specify a unique name and the duration of the workspace.

marie@login$ ws_allocate: [options] workspace_name duration

  -h [ --help]               produce help message
  -V [ --version ]           show version
  -d [ --duration ] arg (=1) duration in days
  -n [ --name ] arg          workspace name
  -F [ --filesystem ] arg    filesystem
  -r [ --reminder ] arg      reminder to be sent n days before expiration
  -m [ --mailaddress ] arg   mailaddress to send reminder to (works only with mails)
  -x [ --extension ]         extend workspace
  -u [ --username ] arg      username
  -g [ --group ]             group workspace
  -c [ --comment ] arg       comment


marie@login$ ws_allocate -F scratch -r 7 -m test-workspace 90
Info: creating workspace.
remaining extensions  : 10
remaining time in days: 90

This will create a workspace with the name test-workspace on the /scratch filesystem for 90 days with an email reminder for 7 days before the expiration.


Setting the reminder to 7 means you will get a reminder email on every day starting 7 prior to expiration date.

Extension of a Workspace

The lifetime of a workspace is finite. Different filesystems (storage systems) have different maximum durations. A workspace can be extended multiple times, depending on the filesystem.

Filesystem (use with parameter -F) Duration, days Extensions Filesystem Feature Remarks
ssd 30 2 fs_lustre_ssd High-IOPS filesystem (/lustre/ssd, symbolic link: /ssd) on SSDs.
beegfs_global0 (deprecated) 30 2 fs_beegfs_global0 High-IOPS filesystem (/beegfs/global0) on NVMes.
beegfs 30 2 fs_beegfs High-IOPS filesystem (/beegfs) on NVMes.
scratch 100 10 fs_lustre_scratch2 Scratch filesystem (/lustre/ssd, symbolic link: /scratch) with high streaming bandwidth, based on spinning disks
warm_archive 365 2 fs_warm_archive_ws Capacity filesystem based on spinning disks

To extent your workspace use the following command:

marie@login$ ws_extend -F scratch test-workspace 100
Info: extending workspace.
remaining extensions  : 1
remaining time in days: 100


With the ws_extend command, a new duration for the workspace is set. The new duration is not added!

This means when you extend a workspace that expires in 90 days with the command

marie@login$ ws_extend -F scratch my-workspace 40

it will now expire in 40 days not 130 days.

Send Reminder for Workspace Expiry Date

Send a calendar invitation by Email to ensure that the expiration date of a workspace is not forgotten

ws_send_ical -F scratch my-workspace -m

Deletion of a Workspace

To delete a workspace use the ws_release command. It is mandatory to specify the name of the workspace and the filesystem in which it is located:

marie@login$ ws_release -F <filesystem> <workspace name>

Restoring Expired Workspaces

At expiration time your workspace will be moved to a special, hidden directory. For a month (in warm_archive: 2 months), you can still restore your data into an existing workspace.


When you release a workspace by hand, it will not receive a grace period and be permanently deleted the next day. The advantage of this design is that you can create and release workspaces inside jobs and not swamp the filesystem with data no one needs anymore in the hidden directories (when workspaces are in the grace period).


marie@login$ ws_restore -l -F scratch

to get a list of your expired workspaces, and then restore them like that into an existing, active workspace 'new_ws':

marie@login$ ws_restore -F scratch marie-test-workspace-1234567 new_ws

The expired workspace has to be specified by its full name as listed by ws_restore -l, including username prefix and timestamp suffix (otherwise, it cannot be uniquely identified). The target workspace, on the other hand, must be given with just its short name, as listed by ws_list, without the username prefix.

Both workspaces must be on the same filesystem. The data from the old workspace will be moved into a directory in the new workspace with the name of the old one. This means a fresh workspace works as well as a workspace that already contains data.

Linking Workspaces in HOME

It might be valuable to have links to personal workspaces within a certain directory, e.g., your home directory. The command ws_register DIR will create and manage links to all personal workspaces within in the directory DIR. Calling this command will do the following:

  • The directory DIR will be created if necessary.
  • Links to all personal workspaces will be managed:
    • Create links to all available workspaces if not already present.
    • Remove links to released workspaces.

Remark: An automatic update of the workspace links can be invoked by putting the command ws_register DIR in your personal shell configuration file (e.g., .bashrc).

How to use Workspaces

There are three typical options for the use of workspaces:

Per-Job Storage

A batch job needs a directory for temporary data. This can be deleted afterwards.

Use with Gaussian

#SBATCH --partition=haswell
#SBATCH --time=96:00:00
#SBATCH --nodes=1
#SBATCH --ntasks=1
#SBATCH --cpus-per-task=24

module purge
module load modenv/hiera
module load Gaussian

export GAUSS_SCRDIR=$(ws_allocate -F ssd $COMPUTE_DIR 7)

srun g16 inputfile.gjf logfile.log

test -d $GAUSS_SCRDIR && rm -rf $GAUSS_SCRDIR/*
ws_release -F ssd $COMPUTE_DIR

Likewise, other jobs can use temporary workspaces.

Data for a Campaign

For a series of jobs or calculations that work on the same data, you should allocate a workspace once, e.g., in scratch for 100 days:

marie@login$ ws_allocate -F scratch my_scratchdata 100
Info: creating workspace.
remaining extensions  : 2
remaining time in days: 99

You can grant your project group access rights:

chmod g+wrx /scratch/ws/marie-my_scratchdata

And verify it with:

marie@login$ ls -la /scratch/ws/marie-my_scratchdata
total 8
drwxrwx--- 2 marie    hpcsupport 4096 Jul 10 09:03 .
drwxr-xr-x 5 operator adm        4096 Jul 10 09:01 ..

Mid-Term Storage

For data that seldom changes but consumes a lot of space, the warm archive can be used. Note that this is mounted read-only on the compute nodes, so you cannot use it as a work directory for your jobs!

marie@login$ ws_allocate -F warm_archive my_inputdata 365
remaining extensions  : 2
remaining time in days: 365


The warm archive is not built for billions of files. There is a quota for 100.000 files per group. Please archive data.

To see your active quota use

marie@login$ qinfo quota /warm_archive/ws/

Note that the workspaces reside under the mountpoint /warm_archive/ws/ and not /warm_archive anymore.


Q: I am getting the error Error: could not create workspace directory!

A: Please check the "locale" setting of your ssh client. Some clients (e.g. the one from MacOSX) set values that are not valid on our ZIH systems. You should overwrite LC_CTYPE and set it to a valid locale value like export LC_CTYPE=de_DE.UTF-8.

A list of valid locales can be retrieved via locale -a. Please only use UTF8 (or plain) settings. Avoid "iso" codepages!

Q: I am getting the error Error: target workspace does not exist! when trying to restore my workspace.

A: The workspace you want to restore into is either not on the same filesystem or you used the wrong name. Use only the short name that is listed after id: when using ws_list