Scheduling/Automating Transfers

This article explains how to schedule or automate data transfers. It covers:

  • Scheduling download tasks using cron and LOTUS
  • Using Globus for transfer automation [TODO]


In many cases it can be useful to fetch data from an external source for processing/analysis on JASMIN on a regular basis, for example "every Monday at 11:00 fetch all last week's data". It can also be helpful to distribute the task downloading of some large datasets, or simply to be able rely on data being pulled in from some external source to an accumulating dataset used for periodic analysis.

Scheduling download tasks using cron and LOTUS

While the cron server is provided for scheduling tasks, it should not be used for the work of executing those tasks itself. So we need a way for a task to be invoked from cron but executed where there is lots of processing resource (i.e. LOTUS). A separate copy queue (aka. partition in SLURM) already exists for use by the bcopy service but should be used by scheduled data transfer tasks as well. In this way we preserve the other queues for their intended purpose of analysis processing and we can manage resources effectively.

The copy queue has a default run time of 60hrs and a maximum run time of 168hrs. Please see notes on sensible usage in "2. Multi-node downloads", below.

1. Single download script

The simple script below is used to download a single file from an external source via HTTP using wget:

#SBATCH --partition=copy
#SBATCH -o %j.out 
#SBATCH -e %j.err
#SBATCH --time=00:30

# executable 
wget -q -O 1MB_${SLURM_JOBID}.zip

The same could be also achieved using curl, or using a Python script making use of (for example) the requests library.

A note about transfer tools: since we are delegating the actual download task to a LOTUS node, we are restricted to transfer tools already installed on those nodes or available in the user's path at a location which is cross-mounted with nodes in the the LOTUS cluster (see Table 1 in Access to Storage), such as $HOME or a group workspace. It is not possible for the JASMIN team to install specialist data transfer tools across the whole cluster, so you may be limited to downloading via HTTP(S), FTP, or via tools available via libraries in the Python environment such (which you do have access to and can easily customise to install additional libraries using virtual environments).

Download tools installed on LOTUS nodes include:

  • wget
  • curl
  • ftp (but not lftp)

In our simple example above, we can subit this script to LOTUS from the command line with


This could be invoked on a regular basis by adding a crontab entry like this

30 * * * * sbatch /home/users/username/

However it would be safer to wrap this in a crontamer command like this to ensure one instance of the task had finished before the next started: (see Using cron for details)

30 * * * * crontamer -t 2h 'sbatch /home/users/username/'

2. Multi-node downloads

We could expand this example to download multiple items, perhaps 1 directory of data for each day of a month, and have 1 element of a job array handle the downloading of each day's data.

A few words of warning: Distributing download tasks as shown below can cause unintended side-effects. Here, we're submitting an array of 10 download jobs, each initiating a request for a 1MB file which may well happen simultaneously. So we need to be confident that the systems and networks at either end can cope with that. It would be all too easy to submit a task to download several thousand large data files and cause problems for other users of JASMIN (and other users on its host institution's network), or indeed at the other end. Taken to the extreme, this could appear over the network as a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack. As with all LOTUS tasks: start small, test, and increase to sensible scales when you are confident it will not cause a problem. Using the copy queue (currently limited to 80 job slots) will help limit the damage that could occur (instead of using the entire cluster!). A limit of 10 jobs would be a sensible maximum, for one user.

We'll simulate this here by downloading the same external file to 10 different output files, but you could adapt this concept for your own purposes depending on the layout of the source and destination data.

#SBATCH --partition=copy
#SBATCH -o %A_%a.out
#SBATCH -e %A_%a.err
#SBATCH --time=00:30
#SBATCH --array=1-10
#SBATCH --time=00:30

# executable 
wget -q -O 1MB_${SLURM_ARRAY_TASK_ID}.zip

echo "script completed"

In this (perhaps contrived) example, we're setting up an array of 10 elements and using the SLURM_ARRAY_TASK_ID environment variable to name the output files (otherwise they'd all be the same). In a real-world example you could apply your own logic to divide up files or directories matching certain patterns to become elements of a job array.

The script could then be scheduled to be invoked at regular intervals as shown in (1).

Some tools provide functionality for mirroring or synchronising directories, i.e. only downloading those files in a directory which are new have been added since the last time a task was run. These can be useful to avoid repeated downloads of the same data.

Using Globus for transfer automation [TODO]

It is also possible to automate transfers between Globus endpoints. Some information about how to do this is available here, but further work is needed by the JASMIN team before detailed advice can be provided here about how this could be used from within the JASMIN environment (however users more familiar with Globus, particularly the CLI and Python SDK may be interested to experiment with this). Watch this space.