PBS cluster basics and FAQs

New user warning

  • If you have never used a cluster before, or are not familiar with clusters or Linux in general, please take time to read the documentation pages.
  • Do not try and run jobs without understanding how to submit them. Carelessness will impact hundreds of jobs and other users running on the cluster.
  • If any actions compromise the HPC service, your account will be disabled.

PBS Scheduler

Our Linux clusters run the Torque Resource Manager. When scheduling a job/simulation/render task on the Linux cluster, a PBS script needs to be written. The job scheduler parses this for instructions (such as how many cores to use) and then passes the remaining instructions to the command line for execution once the Job starts.

This behaviour is one of the major reasons PBS is the preferred job scheduler on the QGG. PBS scripts can be written in any terminal scripting language. As ‘BASH’ is the default shell environment in the QGG this tutorial will use bash syntax.

Queue Definitions

Each job must be assigned to a queue that determines how long the job can run for and thus it’s priority.

Queue name Maximum time Maximum nodes
serialsrt 6 hours 1 node
serialstd 48 hours 1 node
parasrt 12 hours 4 nodes
parastd 48 hours 4 nodes
serualul 1000 hours 1 nodes
parabig 48 hours 16 nodes
paraul 1000 hours 80% nodes

The queues are listed in top down priority order. This means that the scheduler will prefer to complete jobs waiting in the short queues before the long queues.

Good file management practice

It is good practice to keep all the files related to a job in their own folder. An example file structure is shown below


Writing a submission script

A PBS job submission script is just a simple shell script. At the top a number of headers must be specified to choose the correct queue and number of cores.


#PBS -l nodes=X:ppn=Y
#PBS -N jobname
#PBS -q queuename
  • Replace X with the number of nodes and Y with number of cores in each node (processors per node)
  • Replace jobname with an identifier for this job
  • Replace queuename with one of the queues from above

Optional headers

#PBS -e stderr-filename
#PBS -o stdout-filename
#PBS -j oe

The previous 3 options allow a user to specify a special file name for the standard error (-e) and for the standard output (-o). These can be set to appear as a more useful name but it is not recommended as on each run it will overwrite the previous logs unless the file name is changed. By default it uses the job number and appends an extension ‘err’ for the standard error and ‘out’ for the standard output. The (-j) option allows the user to combine both files into one - which helps reduce the number of files.

#PBS -m abe
#PBS -M john.smith@email.com

Instructs PBS to email the user on (a)bort (b)egin (e)nd. The three initials can be used in any combination or order.

Rest of the script

After the headers are fed in, users are free to enter bash commands to invoke their program, handle file management etc. If you have requested more than 1 node, these commands will be run by the first node assigned by the job scheduler when the job begins to run.

Putting it all together

Example serial job (running on a single node)


# set the number of nodes and processes per node
#PBS -l nodes=1:ppn=4

# set name of job
#PBS -N SerialJob

# use submission environment
#PBS -q serialstd

# start job from the directory it was submitted

# run the executable

Example parallel job (running on multiple nodes)


# set the number of nodes and processes per node
#PBS -l nodes=4:ppn=4

# set name of job
#PBS -N ParallelJob

# use submission environment
#PBS -q paraul

# start job from the directory it was submitted

# Load the module you need
module load mpi/openmpi

# define MPI host details
nprocs=`wc -l $PBS_NODEFILE | awk '{ print $1 }'`

# run through the mpirun launcher
mpirun -np $nprocs -machinefile $PBS_NODEFILE ./executable_name

CLI tools


The qsub command submits a PBS script file to the system and takes as an argument the name of the PBS script. In return, the system will print out a job ID.


The qstat command shows the status of all your jobs running in the queues on the system.


To delete a job from the Batch system the qdel command can be used. Supply the job ID as the argument. Only jobs submitted by you can be deleted using this command.


The showq command will show the scheduler status. This allows you to see other jobs that are running on the system and the total resources in use and available.