Launch Rockets through a queue

If your FireWorker is a large, shared resource (such as a computing cluster or supercomputing center), you probably won’t be able to launch Rockets directly. Instead, you’ll submit Rockets through an existing queueing system that allocates computer resources.

The simplest way to execute jobs through a queue would be to write a templated queue file and then submit it as a two-task Firework, as in the Firetask tutorial. However, FireWorks then considers your “job” to only be queue submission, and will consider the job completed after the queue submission is complete. FireWorks will not know when the actual payload starts running, or is finished, or if the job finishes successfully. Thus, many of the useful management and monitoring features of FireWorks will not be available to you.

A more powerful way to execute jobs through a queue is presented in this tutorial. In this method, the queue file runs rlaunch instead of running your desired program. This method is just like typing rlaunch into a Terminal window like in the core tutorials, except that now we are submitting a queue script that does the typing for us (it’s very low-tech!). In particular, FireWorks is completely unaware that you are running through a queue!

The jobs we will submit to the queue are basically placeholder jobs that are asleep until the job starts running. When the job is actually assigned computer resources and runs, the script “wakes” up and runs the Rocket Launcher, which then figures out what Firework to run.

The advantage of this low-tech system is that it is quite durable; if your queue system goes down or you delete a job from the queue, there are zero repercussions. You don’t have to tell FireWorks to run those jobs somewhere else, because FireWorks never knew about your queue in the first place. In addition, if you are running on multiple machines and the queue becomes backlogged on one of them, it does not matter at all. Your submission job stuck in the queue is not preventing high-priority jobs from running on other machines.

There are also some disadvantages to this simple system for which you might want to tell FireWorks about the queue. We’ll discuss these limitations at the end of the tutorial and direct you on how to overcome them in the next tutorial. For now, we suggest that you get things working simply.

Launch a single job through a queue

To get warmed up, let’s set up a Queue Launcher to run a single Firework through a queueing system.

Configure the Queue Launcher

The Queue Launcher needs to write and submit a queue script that contains an executable (in our case, a Rocket Launcher). This is achieved through a QueueAdapter file.

  1. Move to the queue tutorial directory on your FireWorker:

    cd <INSTALL_DIR>/fw_tutorials/queue
  2. Locate an appropriate QueueAdapter file. The files are usually named qadapter_<QUEUE>.yaml where <QUEUE> is the supported queue system.


If you cannot find a working QueueAdapter file for your specific queuing system, or the queue script needs modification, you can write/modify your own QueueAdapter. Or, simply contact us for help (see Contributing / Contact / Bug Reports) and we will help create one for your system.

  1. Copy your chosen QueueAdapter file to a new name:

    cp qadapter_<QUEUE>.yaml my_qadapter.yaml
  2. Navigate to clean working directory on the FireWorker. For example:

    mkdir ~/queue_tests
    cd ~/queue_tests
  3. Copy over your queue file and the test FW to this directory:

    cp <INSTALL_DIR>/fw_tutorials/queue/my_qadapter.yaml .
    cp <INSTALL_DIR>/fw_tutorials/queue/fw_test.yaml .
  4. Copy over your LaunchPad and FireWorker files from the worker tutorial:

    cp <INSTALL_DIR>/fw_tutorials/worker/my_fworker.yaml .
    cp <INSTALL_DIR>/fw_tutorials/worker/my_launchpad.yaml .


    If you do not have these files, please go back and regenerate them according to the instructions here.

  5. Open my_qadapter.yaml and modify it as follows:

    1. In the part that specifies running rlaunch, modify the path/to/my_fworker.yaml to contain the absolute path of the my_fworker.yaml file on your machine.

    2. On the same line, modify the path/to/my_launchpad.yaml to contain the absolute path of the my_launchpad.yaml file on your machine.

    3. For the logdir parameter, modify the path/to/logging text to contain the absolute path of where you would like FireWorks logs to go. For example, you might create a fw_logs directory inside your home directory, and point the logdir parameter there.


    Be sure to indicate the full, absolute path name; do not use BASH shortcuts like ‘.’, ‘..’, or ‘~’, and do not indicate a relative path.

You are now ready to begin!

Add some FireWorks

Staying in your testing directory, let’s reset our database and add a new Firework, all from our FireWorker:

lpad reset
lpad add fw_test.yaml

Submit a job

  1. Try submitting a job using the command:

    qlaunch singleshot


Similar to the Rocket Launcher, if you use the names my_launchpad.yaml, my_fworker.yaml, and my_qadapter.yaml, then you don’t need to specify the -l, -w, and -q options explicitly. FireWorks will automatically search for these files in the current directory, or in a configuration directory that you specify with a single -c parameter, or in the directories specified by your FWConfig file.

  1. This should have submitted a job to the queue in the current directory. You can read the log files in the logging directory, and/or check the status of your queue to ensure your job appeared.

  2. After your queue manager runs your job, you should see the file howdy.txt in the current directory.


    Here, it is possible you have errors in connecting to your database. The first thing to double-check is that you are correctly referencing the correct my_launchpad.yaml file in the rocket_launch command of your my_qadapter.yaml and that this file is properly set up to connect to the correct host/port with the right credentials. The second thing to verify is whether your MongoDB server can accept inbound connections. This is typically not a problem if you use a cloud service like mLab or MongoDB Atlas, but can be tricky if you are hosting your own MongoDB server. You should try connecting to your server from outside computers and see if it works using the credentials/information in your my_launchpad.yaml. Third, in some cases, firewall issues on shared resources prevent your compute node from accessing the LaunchPad hosted on your FireServer - meaning the outgoing connection is blocked. You should confirm that your compute nodes can access external database servers. You might try to submit an interactive job to your queue that allows you to type shell commands inside a running job. Once on the compute node, you can try accessing your LaunchPad: lpad -l my_launchpad.yaml get_fw 1. If you cannot access the LaunchPad from your compute node, the first thing to do is contact a system administrator for assistance. If you are convinced that there is no way for the compute nodes to access a network, you might try running FireWorks in offline mode.

If everything ran successfully, congratulations! You just executed a Firework through a queue!

Adding more power: using rapid-fire mode

While launching a single job to a queue is nice, a more powerful use case is to submit a large number of jobs at once, or to maintain a certain number of jobs in the queue. Like the Rocket Launcher, the Queue Launcher can be run in a “rapid-fire” mode that provides these features.

  1. Clean your working directory of everything but four files: fw_test.yaml, my_qadapter.yaml, my_fworker.yaml, and my_launchpad.yaml

  2. Let’s reset our database and add three new FireWorks, all from our FireWorker:

    lpad reset
    lpad add fw_test.yaml
    lpad add fw_test.yaml
    lpad add fw_test.yaml
  3. Submit several jobs with a single command:

    qlaunch rapidfire -m 3


    The Queue Launcher sleeps between each job submission to give time for the queue manager to ‘breathe’. It might take a few minutes to submit all the jobs.


    The command above submits jobs until you have at most 3 jobs in the queue under your username. If you had some jobs existing in the queue before running this command, you might need to increase the -m parameter.

  4. The rapid-fire command should have created a directory beginning with the tag block_. Navigate inside this directory, and confirm that three directories starting with the tag launch were created. The launch directories contain your individual jobs.

You’ve now launched multiple Rockets with a single command, all through a queueing system!

Continually submit jobs to the queue

You might want to set up your worker so that it maintains a certain number of jobs in the queue indefinitely. That way, it will continuously pull FireWorks from the LaunchPad. Let’s set this up.

  1. Clean your working directory of everything but four files: fw_test.yaml, my_qadapter.yaml, my_fworker.yaml, and my_launchpad.yaml.

  2. Let’s reset our database and add four new FireWorks this time:

    lpad reset
    lpad add fw_test.yaml
    lpad add fw_test.yaml
    lpad add fw_test.yaml
    lpad add fw_test.yaml


    We have omitted the -l parameter. You can use this shortcut when using the standard file name (my_launchpad.yaml) for the LaunchPad.

  3. Run the queue launcher in infinite mode:

    qlaunch rapidfire -m 2 --nlaunches infinite
  4. This command will always maintain 2 jobs in the queue. When a job finishes, another will be submitted to take its place!

Running multiple Rockets per queue job

So far, each queue script we submitted has only one job. We can also submit multiple jobs per queue script by running the rapidfire option of the Rocket Launcher inside the Queue Launcher. Then, a single queue script will run multiple Rockets.

  1. Clean your working directory of everything but four files: fw_test.yaml, my_qadapter.yaml, my_fworker.yaml, and my_launchpad.yaml.

  2. Copy your QueueAdapter file to my_qp_multi.yaml:

    cp my_qadapter.yaml my_qp_multi.yaml
  3. Edit my_qp_multi.yaml as follows:

    1. In the part that specifies running rlaunch, modify the singleshot text to read rapidfire.

  4. Let’s add three FireWorks to the LaunchPad and submit a single queue script:

    lpad reset
    lpad add fw_test.yaml
    lpad add fw_test.yaml
    lpad add fw_test.yaml
    qlaunch -q my_qp_multi.yaml singleshot
  5. You should confirm that only a single job got submitted to the queue. However, when the job starts running, you’ll see that all three of your jobs completed in separate launcher_ directories!


Note that when running in rapidfire mode, there is an increased likelihood that a Firework will be killed by the job walltime. To mitigate this, you can either limit the number of jobs executed by rapidfire (using either the nlaunches or timeout parameters), or you can let the Firework be killed and use the error recovery features (see docs on that topic) to rerun the killed Firework.

Remote qlaunch


Remote qlaunch requires the Fabric package to be installed.

The qlaunch command also comes with options to do simple remote queue administration. This remote capability is extremely useful if you need to maintain jobs in queues across a number of computing resources from a single location (as opposed to ssh into each resource and doing qlaunch).

A few recommendations:

  1. It is helpful if you configure all your fireworks in all the resources you want to use similarly. For example, you can use the default $HOME/.fireworks location, or setup every resource in a similar location.

  2. Passwordless ssh should ideally be configured for all clusters from the machine you want to run qlaunch from. While qlaunch provides a “-rp” option to specify the password, it is less secure and less powerful (e.g., you can’t manage lots of resources with a single command).

Sample usage

All remote options start with “-r” or “–remote”.

  1. Running qlaunch rapidfire on one server:

    qlaunch -rh -ru user rapidfire -m 50

    Note that rapidfire options such as “-m 50” are automatically transmitted to the resource.

  2. Running qlaunch rapidfire on a host with multiple queue configurations. This is useful when you have multiple FireWorks configurations (e.g. different queue or FireWorker configurations) for a single resource. A single command runs qlaunch rapidfire on all configurations:

    qlaunch -rh -rc /path/to/config1 /path/to/config2 -ru user rapidfire
  3. Running qlaunch rapidfire on multiple hosts with the same username. Without the rc option, it is assumed that $HOME/.fireworks is where the fireworks configuration is located on all hosts:

    qlaunch -rh -ru user rapidfire


To keep the code simple, qlaunch default remote options are limited to similar configurations across multiple resources. If you have more complicated setups, e.g., different users, different queue configurations across different computing resources, remote qlaunch will not be able to handle these. However, you can always write your own and use Fabric’s far more sophisticated execution model.

A simple for different users on different hosts is given below. If you require Fabric’s sophistication, I encourage you to read Fabric’s official documentation:

from fabric.api import run, env

env.hosts = ["", ""]

def qlaunch():
    run('qlaunch -c $HOME/.fireworks rapidfire')

More information

  1. As with all FireWorks scripts, you can run the built-in help for more information:

    qlaunch -h
    qlaunch singleshot -h
    qlaunch rapidfire -h

Submitting to the queue with Python

Although most people will submit jobs to the queue with the command line, you can also submit jobs via Python. The example is similar to previous tutorials for running the rapidfire command, however you want to replace fireworks.core.rocket_launcher.rapidfire with fireworks.core.queue_launcher.rapidfire and adjust the parameters accordingly.

Limitations and Next Steps

The information in this tutorial might be all you need to automate your application. However, as we noted previously, there are some limitations to running under a model in which FireWorks is completely unaware of the existence of queues. In the simple queue execution model, limitations include:

  1. You can’t track how many of your jobs are queued

Since FireWorks is unaware of your queue, there’s no way to track how many of your jobs are queued up on various machines. You’ll have to wait until they start running before their presence is reported to FireWorks.

  1. You might submit too many jobs to the queue

It’s possible to submit more queue scripts than exist jobs in the database. Before submitting a queue script, the Queue Launcher checks that at least one unstarted job exists in the database. However, let’s take an example where you have one Firework in the database that’s ready to run. Nothing in the current system prevents you from using the Queue Launcher to rapid-fire 20 jobs to the queue. You won’t be prevented from submitting queue scripts until that Firework has actually started running.

If the number of jobs in your database is kept much higher than the number of jobs you keep in your queues, then you shouldn’t run into this problem at all; all your submitted queue scripts will always find a job to run. Even if this is not the case, the additional queue scripts should pose only a minor penalty. Any extra queue scripts will wake up, find nothing to do, and exit without wasting more than few seconds of computer time. If you are using rapid-fire mode, you’ll also end up with an additional launcher_ directory. You can look at the REMOVE_USELESS_DIRS option of the FW config as a solution to this.

  1. You can’t easily tailor queue parameters (e.g. walltime) individually for each the job

Perhaps the most severe limitation is that the Queue Launcher submits queue scripts with identical queue parameters (e.g., all jobs will have the same walltime, use the same number of cores, etc.)

If you have just two or three sets of queue parameters for your different job types, you can work around this limitation. First, recall that you can use the FireWorker file to restrict which jobs get run (see tutorial). If you have two types of jobs, you can run two Queue Launchers. Each of these Queue Launchers use different queue parameters, corresponding to the two types of jobs you’d like to run. In addition, each Queue Launcher should be run with a corresponding FireWorker that restricts that jobs for that launcher to the desired job type.

While this solution works for a few different job types, it is not practical if you have many job types. In addition, it requires some coordination between Firework categories, FireWorkers, and Queue Launchers. Therefore, if setting multiple sets of queue parameters is needed for your application, we suggest that you read on for a solution.

To solve these problems, you must *reserve* FireWorks in advance.

Next step: reserving FireWorks to overcome limitations

If you feel these limitations impact your workflow, you should forge on to the next tutorial: Reserving FireWorks upon queue submission. We’ll explain how reserving FireWorks upon queue submission can solve the limitations of simple queue submission, at the expense of added complexity and introducing some new limitations and considerations.


If you are planning to complete the next tutorial, you should save your working directory with the files: fw_test.yaml, my_qadapter.yaml, my_fworker.yaml, and my_launchpad.yaml. We’ll use it in the next tutorial.