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You are here: Compendium » CheckpointRestart


If you wish to do checkpointing, your first step should always be to check if your application already has such capabilities built-in, as that is the most stable and safe way of doing it. Applications that are known to have some sort of native checkpointing include:

Abaqus, Amber, Gaussian, GROMACS, LAMMPS, NAMD, NWChem, Quantum Espresso, STAR-CCM+, VASP

In case your program does not natively support checkpointing, there are attempts at creating generic checkpoint/restart solutions that should work application-agnostic. One such project which we recommend is DMTCP: Distributed MultiThreaded CheckPointing (

It is available on Taurus after having loaded the "dmtcp" module:

module load DMTCP

While our batch system of choice, SLURM, also provides a checkpointing interface to the user, unfortunately it does not yet support DMTCP at this time. However, there are ongoing efforts of writing a SLURM plugin that hopefully will change this in the near future. We will update this documentation as soon as it becomes available.

In order to help with setting up checkpointing for your jobs, we have written a few scripts that make it easier to utilize DMTCP together with SLURM on our cluster.

Using our chain job script

For long-running jobs that you wish to split into multiple shorter jobs, thereby enabling the job scheduler to fill the cluster much more efficiently and also providing some level of fault-tolerance, we have written a script that automatically creates a number of jobs for your desired runtime and adds the checkpoint/restart bits transparently to your batch script. You just have to specify the targeted total runtime of your calculation and the interval in which you wish to do checkpoints. The latter (plus the time it takes to write the checkpoint) will then be the runtime of the individual jobs. This should be targeted at below 24 hours in order to be able to run on all of our haswell64 partitions, for increased fault-tolerance it can be chosen even shorter.

To use it, first add a dmtcp_launch before your application call in your batch script. In case of MPI applications, you have to add the parameters "--ib --rm" and put it between srun and your application call, e.g.:

srun dmtcp_launch --ib --rm ./my-mpi-application

Note: we have successfully tested checkpointing MPI applications with the latest Intel MPI (module: intelmpi/2018.0.128). While it might work with other MPI libraries, too, we have no experience in this regard, so you should always try it out before using it for your productive jobs.

Then just substitute your usual sbatch call with dmtcp_sbatch and be sure to specify the -t and -i parameters (don't forget you need to have loaded the dmtcp module).
dmtcp_sbatch -t 2-00:00:00 -i 28000,800

With -t|--time you set the total runtime of your calculation over all jobs. This will be replaced in the batch script in order to shorten your individual jobs.

The parameter -i|--interval sets the time in seconds for your checkpoint intervals. It can optionally include a timeout for writing out the checkpoint files, separated from the interval time via comma (defaults to 10 minutes).

In the above example, there will be 6 jobs each running 8 hours, so about 2 days in total.

  • If you see your first job running into the timelimit, that probably means the timeout for writing out checkpoint files does not suffice and should be increased. Our tests have shown that it takes approximately 5 minutes to write out the memory content of a fully utilized 64GB haswell node, so you should choose at least 10 minutes there (better err on the side of caution). Your mileage may vary, depending on how much memory your application uses. If your memory content is rather incompressible, it might be a good idea to disable the checkpoint file compression by setting: export DMTCP_GZIP=0
  • Note that all jobs the script deems necessary for your chosen timelimit/interval values are submitted right when first calling the script. If your applications takes considerably less time than what you specified, some of the individual jobs will be unnecessary. As soon as one job does not find a checkpoint to resume from, it will cancel all subsequent jobs for you.
  • See dmtcp_sbatch -h for a list of available parameters and more help

What happens in your work directory?
  • The script will create subdirectories named ckpt_<jobid> for each individual job it puts into the queue
  • It will also create modified versions of your batch script, one for the first job (ckpt_launch.job), one for the middle parts (ckpt_rstr.job) and one for the final job (cpkt_rstr_last.job)
  • Inside the ckpt_* directories you will also find a file (job_ids) containing all job ids that are related to this job chain

If you wish to restart manually from one of your checkpoints (e.g., if something went wrong in your later jobs or the jobs vanished from the queue for some reason), you have to call dmtcp_sbatch with the -r|--resume parameter, specifying a cpkt_* directory to resume from. Then it will use the same parameters as in the initial run of this job chain. If you wish to adjust the timelimit, for instance because you realized that your original limit was too short, just use the -t|--time parameter again on resume.

Using DMTCP manually

If for some reason our automatic chain job script is not suitable to your use-case, you could also just use DMTCP on its own. In the following we will give you step-by-step instructions on how to checkpoint your job manually:
  1. Load the dmtcp module: module load dmtcp
  2. DMTCP usually runs an additional process that manages the creation of checkpoints and such, the so called coordinator. It must be started in your batch script before the actual start of your application. To help you with this process, we have created a bash function called start_coordinator that is available after sourcing $DMTCP_ROOT/bin/bash in your script. The coordinator can take a handful of parameters, see man dmtcp_coordinator. Via -i you can specify an interval (in seconds) in which checkpoint files are to be created automatically. With --exit-after-ckpt the application will be terminated after the first checkpoint has been created, which can be useful if you wish to implement some sort of job chaining on your own.
  3. In front of your program call, you have to add the wrapper script: dmtcp_launch
    #SBATCH --time=00:01:00
    #SBATCH --cpus-per-task=8
    #SBATCH --mem-per-cpu=1500
    source $DMTCP_ROOT/bin/bash
    start_coordinator -i 40 --exit-after-ckpt
    dmtcp_launch ./my-application #for sequential/multithreaded applications
    srun dmtcp_launch --ib --rm ./my-mpi-application #for MPI applications

This will create a checkpoint automatically after 40 seconds and then terminate your application and with it the job. If the job runs into its timelimit (here: 60 seconds), the time to write out the checkpoint was probably not long enough. If all went well, you should find cpkt* files in your work directory together with a script called ./ that can be used to resume from the checkpoint.
  1. To restart your application, you need another batch file (similiar to the one above) where once again you first have to start the DMTCP coordinator. The requested resources should match those of your original job. If you do not wish to create another checkpoint in your restarted run again, you can omit the -i and --exit-after-ckpt parameters this time. Afterwards, the application must be run using the restart script, specifying the host and port of the coordinator (they have been exported by the start_coordinator function). Example:
    #SBATCH --time=00:01:00
    #SBATCH --cpus-per-task=8
    #SBATCH --mem-per-cpu=1500
    source $DMTCP_ROOT/bin/bash
    start_coordinator -i 40 --exit-after-ckpt