[Rd] [parallel-package] feature request: set default cluster type via environment variable

Prof Brian Ripley ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Thu Nov 24 15:42:53 CET 2016

On 24/11/2016 07:30, Christian Krause wrote:
> Dear all,
> I’m working as an administrator of a High-Performance Computing (HPC) Cluster which runs on Linux. A lot of people are using R on this Linux cluster and, of course, the *parallel* package to speed up their computations.
> It has been our collective experience, that using |makeForkCluster| yields an overall better experience /on Linux/ than the |makePSOCKcluster|, for whatever definition of better. Let me just summarize that it works smoother. I believe, other people working with *parallel* on Linux can share this experience

Usually, but not always.  And the differences are mainly in 
initialization time, so small once workers are given a reasonable amount 
of work (tens of seconds each).  However, as forked workers have a copy 
of the whole master process, forking workers can lead to excessive 
memory usage.

> Also, we did really welcome the environment variable |MC_CORES|, to be able to specify (in job submit scripts) the amount of CPU cores a user has been granted, most importantly for /dynamic resource requests/ (see below for an example).

Hmm, MC_CORES is primarily for mclapply() and friends, not 
makeCluster().  makeForkCluster() is a 'friend' so uses it, but 
makePSOCKcluster() was designed for distributing across a cluster of 
machines (whereas makeForkCluster is restricted to a single multicore 

> What we would also appreciate - and now we finally get to the feature request - is another environment variable to choose the used cluster, as in:
> Do you think something like this could be implemented in future releases?

No.  (Not least as 'MC_' refers to the former 'multicore' package.)

PSOCK and Fork clusters are not interchangeable, and the author of the 
code has to check if Fork can be substituted for PSOCK (which starts 
with a clean R environment, and that may well be assumed).

So rather, you need to ask your users to implement this in their calls 
to parallel::makeCluster.

>       Parallel R job submit script
> This works with the Univa Grid Engine and should work with other * Grid Engine products:
> |#!/bin/bash # request a "parallel environment" with 2 to 20 cores #$ -pe smp 2-20 # set number of cores for the R cluster to the granted value (between 2 and 20) export MC_CORES=$NSLOTS # we want this: export MC_CLUSTER_TYPE=FORK Rscript /path/to/script.R |
> Best Regards

Brian D. Ripley,                  ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, University of Oxford

More information about the R-devel mailing list