Intro to Grid Engine Queues

I just posted this information as answer to a question on the Grid Engine users mailing list, but I thought it was useful enough to post here, too. If you're new to Grid Engine and trying to understand what a queue is, hopefully this explanation will help.

Let's take it from the top. A queue is where a job runs, not where it waits to run. When a job is in the qw (queued and waiting) state, it has not yet been assigned to a queue. A job that has been assigned to a queue is in the r (running) state (or transferring or suspended). In the pre-6.0 days, a queue could only exist on a single host. With 6.0, we introduced the idea of cluster queues. A cluster queue is a queue that can span multiple hosts. Under the covers, it's essentially a group of pre-6.0 queues, all with the same name, and each on a different host. With one caveat. A pre-6.0 queue is composed of a long list of required attributes, like slots, pe_list, user_list, etc. Starting with 6.0, that long list of attributes is only required for the cluster queue. All of the queue instances that belong to that cluster queue inherit the attribute values from it. The queue instances are allowed, however, to override those attribute values with local settings. A common example of that is the slots attribute. When you install an execution daemon using the install_execd script, it will add a slots setting for the queue instance of all.q on that host (noted as all.q@host). And if it wasn't already clear, pre-6.0 "queue" == post-6.0 "queue instance". Post-6.0 "queue" == "cluster queue".

So, aside from governing the number of free slots on a host, what does a queue do? It controls the execution context of jobs that run in it. It determines what parallel environments are available, what file, memory, and CPU time limits should be applied, how the job should be started, stopped, suspended, and resumed, what the job's process' nice value is, etc.

Queues also have a concept of subordination. A queue that is subordinated to another queue will be suspended (along with all the jobs running in it) when jobs are running in that other queue. By default, the subordinated queue will be suspended when the other queue is full, but you can set the number of jobs required to suspend the subordinated queue. 1 is a common value, meaning that the subordinated queue should be suspended if any jobs are running in the other queue. Subordination trees can be arbitrarily complex. Circular subordination schemes are permitted, producing a sort of mutual exclusion effect.

One other oddity to point out is that the slot count for a queue is not really a queue attribute. It's actually a queue-level resource (aka complex). To allow multiple queues on the same host to share that host's CPUs without oversubscribing, you can set the slots resource at the host level. Doing so sets a host-wide slot limit, and all queues on that host must then share the given number of slots, regardless of how many slots each queue (or queue instance) may try to offer.

Since we're talking about resources, let's talk about one of the common queue/resource configuration patterns. By default, there's nothing (other than access lists) to prevent a stray job from wandering into a queue. That's bad for queues that govern expensive resources or that represent special access, like a priority queue. To solve this problem, the most common approach is to create a resource that is forced. A forced resource (one that has FORCED in the requestable column) has the property that any queue or host that offers that resource can only be used by jobs requesting that resource (or that queue or host, in which case, the resource request is implicit). By assigning such queues forced resources, you can guarantee that stray jobs can't end up in the queue. A nice side effect is that you can also assign an urgency to that resource, meaning that jobs requesting that resource (or the queue to which it's assigned) gain (or lose) priority when being scheduled.

For more information on the above topics, I recommend looking at the man pages for queue_conf(5), complex(5), and sge_priority(5).

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