System use policies

Created by Unknown User (bjsmith), last modified on 2023-03-06

This page describes policies for use of the Derecho system. To review scheduling priorities for the Cheyenne system, please see Cheyenne use policies.

Page contents

Appropriate use of login nodes

Users may run short, non-memory-intensive processes interactively on the Derecho system's login nodes. These include tasks such as text editing or running small serial scripts or programs.

However, the login nodes may not be used to run processes that consume excessive resources. This is to ensure an appropriate balance between user convenience and login node performance.

This applies to individual processes that consume excessive amounts of CPU time, more than a few GB of memory, or excessive I/O resources. It also applies collectively to multiple concurrent tasks that an individual user runs.

Processes that use excessive resources on the login nodes are terminated automatically. Affected users are informed by email that their sessions were terminated. They are also advised to run such processes in batch or interactive jobs on the Casper cluster.

Fair share policy

CISL manages scheduling priorities to ensure fair access to the system by all of these stakeholder groups: the university community, the NCAR community, the Community Earth System Model (CESM) community, the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS), and the Wyoming community.

The fair-share policy takes the community-wide usage balance into account along with several additional factors. These include the submitting users' currently running jobs and recently completed jobs. The scheduling system uses a dynamic-priority formula to weigh these factors, calculate each job's priority, and make scheduling decisions.

Pie chart showing percentages of the Derecho resource available to various entities listed in the text of the page.

Job scheduling priorities

The PBS Pro workload management system scheduling policy for running jobs in the Derecho environment requires balancing several factors. Jobs generally are sorted based on the following:

  1. Job priority (user selectable)
  2. Fair share factor
  3. Eligible time in queue
  4. Job size

Job sorting is adjusted frequently in response to varying demands and workloads. PBS examines the jobs in sorted order in each scheduling cycle and starts those that it can. Jobs that cannot be started immediately are either scheduled to run at a future time or bypassed for the current cycle. Under typical system usage, multiple scheduling cycles are initiated every minute.

The scheduler may not start a job for a number of reasons, including:

  • The necessary resources are not yet available.
  • The system has been reserved for a scheduled outage.
  • The job has been placed on hold.
  • You have reached your concurrent core-usage limit when using the develop queue.

A high-priority job might be delayed by one of the limits on the list, while a lower-priority job from a different user or a job requesting fewer resources might not be blocked.

If your job is waiting in the queue, you can run the qstat command as shown to obtain information that can indicate why it has not started running. (Use this command sparingly.)

qstat -s jobID

Note: To prevent jobs from languishing in the queues indefinitely, PBS reserves resources for the top-priority jobs and doesn't allow lower-priority jobs to start if they would delay the start time of a higher-priority job.

PBS sorting factors

Stakeholder shares and fair-share factor

CISL manages scheduling priorities to ensure fair access to the system by these stakeholder groups: the university community, the NCAR community, the CESM community, and the Wyoming community.

Each stakeholder group is allocated a certain percentage of the available processors. A job cannot start if that action would cause the group to exceed its share, unless another group is using less than its share and has no jobs waiting. In such a case, the high-use group can "borrow" processors from the lower-use stakeholder group for a short time.

When jobs are sorted, jobs from groups that are using less of their share are picked before jobs from groups using more of their shares. Shares are evaluated based on usage over the past week with usage the prior week being decayed by half.

Job priority

Users can set job priority to one of three values. Jobs with higher priority are charged against the user's allocation at higher rates than others. 

Job priority Priority order Priority factor Description


1 1.5 Jobs are charged at 150% of the regular rate.
regular 2 1 All production jobs default to this priority.
economy 3 0.7 Production batch jobs are charged at 70% of regular rate.
preempt 4 0 Automatically selected when job is submitted to preempt queue.

Job size

Jobs asking for more nodes are favored over jobs asking for fewer. The reasoning is that while it is easier for small jobs to fill gaps in the schedule, larger jobs need help collecting enough CPUs or GPUs to start.

GPU usage

In order to submit jobs that will use GPUs, you must be associated with a project that has an allocation of GPU hours. If you submit a job with a project code that does not have an allocation of GPU hours, your job will be rejected.


When a job cannot start immediately, PBS sets aside resources for it before examining other jobs to see if any of them can run as backfill. That is, PBS looks at running jobs to determine when they will finish based on wall-time requested. From those finish times, PBS decides when enough resources (such as CPUs, memory, and job limits) will become available to run the top job. PBS then reserves the resources that the job requests at that identified time.

When PBS looks at other jobs to see if they can start immediately, it also checks whether starting any of them would collide with one of these resource reservations. Only if there are no collisions will PBS start the lower-priority jobs.


Derecho has a preemption routing queue that can be used to submit jobs that will run when the required resources are not in use for higher-priority work in the main or develop execution queues. In order to take advantage of preemption, submit your job to the preempt routing queue and it job will run when the necessary resources are available.

When resources for any preempt jobs are needed by higher-priority work, the scheduler sends a SIGTERM signal that can be detected by your job. After the SIGTERM signal is sent to the job, there is a five-minute window in which the job has a chance to checkpoint or save any work that was accomplished. After the five-minute window, the job will be killed by the scheduler and deleted.