Python is widely used programming language where we have installed all basic packages on every node. Yet, python develops quite fast and the system provided packages are ofter not complete or getting old.

Python distributions

  Python to use How to install own packages
Most of the use cases, but sometimes different versions of modules needed Anaconda 2/3 conda environment + conda
Simple programs with common packages, not switching between Pythons often Anaconda 2/3 pip install --user
Special advanced cases. Python from module system virtualenv + pip install

There are two main versions of Python: 2 and 3. There are also different distributions: The “regular” CPython, Anaconda (a package containing CPython + a lot of other scientific software all bundled togeter), PyPy (a just-in-time compiler, which can be much faster for some use cases). Triton supports all of these.

  • For general scientific/data science use, we suggest that you use Anaconda. It comes with the most common scientific software included, and is reasonably optimized.
  • There are many other “regular” CPython versions in the module system. These are compiled and optimized for Triton, and are highly recommended. The default system Python is old and won’t be updated.
  • PyPy is still mainly for advanced use (it can be faster under certain cases, but does not work everywhere). It is available in a module.


Use module load anaconda2 or module load anaconda3 to get a modern Python.

If you have simple needs, use pip install –user to install packages. For complex needs, use anaconda + conda environments to isolate your projects.

Install your own packages easily

Installing your own packages with pip install won’t work, since it tries to install globally for all users. Instead, you should do this (add -user) to install the package in your home directory (~/.local/lib/pythonN.N/):

pip install --user $package_name

This is quick and effective best used for leaf packages without many dependencies and if you don’t switch Python modules often.

Warning! If you do this, then the module will be shared among all your projects. It is quite likely that eventually, you will get some incompatibilities between the Python you are using and the modules installed. In that case, you are on your own (simple recommendation is to remove all modules from ~/.local/lib/pythonN.N and reinstall). If you get incompatible module errors, our first recommendation will be to remove everything installed this way and use conda/virtual environments instead. It’s not a bad idea to do this when you switch to environments anyway.

Note: pip installs from the Python Package Index.

Anaconda and conda environments

Anaconda is a Python distribution by Continuum Analytics. It is nothing fancy, they just take a lot of useful scientific packages and put them all together, make sure they work, and do some sort of optimization. They also include most of the most common computing and data science packages. It is also all open source, and is packaged nicely so that it can easily be installed on any major OS.

To load anaconda, use the module system (you can also load specific versions):

module load anaconda2    # python2
module load anaconda3    # python3

Conda environments

virtualenv does not work with Anaconda, use conda instead.

A conda environment lets you install all your own packages. Your home directories are very small, so it requires some initial steps. You see module load teflon here a lot: conda does bad things with permissions, thus messing up quota accounting. This prevents that.

  • Initial setup: link the conda cache to your work directory (an rsync error because ~/.conda doesn’t exist is OK):

    # Move your package cache to your work directory.  The following does it automatically.
    rsync -lrt ~/.conda/ $WRKDIR/conda/ && rm -r ~/.conda
    ln -sT $WRKDIR/conda ~/.conda
    quotafix -gs --fix $WRKDIR/conda
  • Load the anaconda version you want to use. You will need to always load same version each time you source the environment:

    # Load anaconda first.  This must always be done before activating the env!
    module load anaconda2     # or anaconda3
  • Create an environment:

    # create environment with package pip in it
    module load teflon
    conda create --prefix PATH/TO/DIR python pip ipython ...
    module unload teflon
  • Activating and using the environment, installing more packages, etc. can be done either using conda install or pip install:

    # This must be run in each shell to set up the environment variables properly.
    # make sure module is loaded first.
    source activate PATH/TO/DIR
    # Install more packages, either conda or pip
    module load teflon
    conda search PACKAGE_NAME
    conda install PACKAGE_NAME
    pip install PACKAGE_NAME
    module unload teflon
  • Leaving the environment when done (optional):

    # Deactivate the environment
    source deactivate
  • If you run into “quota exceeded” problems, you need to do the first steps above which move the .conda directory to another folder. The quotafix command may be useful to try to reset things (see above), but if that doesn’t work: in the worst case, remove everything and recreate it.:

    # remove all conda things
    rm -r ~/.conda $WRKDIR/conda
    # Remove anything installed with pip install --user.
    rm -r ~/.local/lib/python*.*/
  • Worst case, you have incompatibility problems. Remove everything, including the stuff installed with pip install --user. If you’ve mixed your personal stuff in with this, then you will have to separate it out.:

    # Remove anything installed with pip install --user.
    rm -r ~/.local/lib/python*.*/

A few notes about conda environments:

  • Once you use a conda environment, everything goes into it. Don’t mix versions with, for example, local packages in your home dir and --pip install --user. Things installed (even previously) with pip install --user will be visible in the conda environment and can make your life hard! Eventually you’ll get dependency problems.
  • Often the same goes for other python based modules. We have setup many modules that do use anaconda as a backend. So, if you know what you are doing this might work.
  • The commands below will fail:
    • conda create -n foo pip # tries to use the global dir, use the --prefix instead
    • conda create --prefix $WRKDIR/foo --clone root # will fail as our anaconda module has additional packages (e.g. via pip) installed.

Python: virtualenv

Virtualenv is default-Python way of making environments, but does not work with Anaconda. We generally recommend using anaconda, since it includes a lot more stuff by default, but virtualenv works on other systems easily so it’s good to know about.

# Create environment
virtualenv DIR

# activate it (in each shell that uses it)
source DIR/bin/activate

# install more things (e.g. ipython, etc.)
pip install PACKAGE_NAME

# deactivate the virtualenv

Python optimized for Triton

There are Python modules installed with the typical software setup against EasyBuild toolchains. While some of the more general packages available with anaconda installation might be missing, the Numpy and Scipy installations on these modules are highly optimized against the installed linear algebra libraries. A typical module loading using these toolchains could be

module load Python/2.7.11-goolf-triton-2016a
module load numpy/1.11.1-goolf-triton-2016a-Python-2.7.11
module load scipy/0.18.0-goolf-triton-2016a-Python-2.7.11

Use module spider Python to see available modules. More specialized modules like Tensorflow, Theano etc. will be installed against these modules so that they can be in optimal settings. Submit your issue in tracker if you wish some other Python modules to be included in these installations.

IPython Parallel

ipyparallel is a tool for running embarrassingly parallel code using Python. The basic idea is that you have a controller and engines. You have a client process which is actually running your own code.

Preliminary notes: ipyparallel is installed in the anaconda{2,3}/latest modules.

Let’s say that you are doing some basic interactive work:

  • Controller: this can run on the frontend node, or you can put it on a script. To start: ipcontroller --ip="*"

  • Engines: srun -N4 ipengine: This runs the four engines in slurm interactively. You don’t need to interact with this once it is running, but remember to stop the process once it is done because it is using resources. You can start/stop this as needed.

  • Start your Python process and use things like normal:

    import os
    import ipyparallel
    client = ipyparallel.Client()
    result = client[:].apply_async(os.getpid)
    pid_map = result.get_dict()

This method lets you turn on/off the engines as needed. This isn’t the most advanced way to use ipyparallel, but works for interactive use.

See also: IPython parallel for a version which goes in a slurm script.

Background: pip vs python vs anaconda vs conda vs virtualenv

Virtual environments are self-contained python environments with all of their own modules, separate from the system packages. They are great for research where you need to be agile and install whatever versions and packages you need. We highly recommend virtual environments or conda environments (below)

  • Anaconda: use conda, see below
  • Normal Python: virtualenv + pip install, see below

You often need to install your own packages. Python has its own package manager system that can do this for you. There are three important related concepts:

  • pip: the Python package installer. Installs Python packages globally, in a user’s directory (--user), or anywhere. Installs from the Python Package Index.
  • virtualenv: Creates a directory that has all self-contained packages that is manageable by the user themself. When the virtualenv is activated, all the operating-system global packages are no longer used. Instead, you install only the packages you want. This is important if you need to install specific versions of software, and also provides isolation from the rest of the system (so that you work can be uninterrupted). It also allows different projects to have different versions of things installed. virtualenv isn’t magic, it could almost be seen as just manipulating PYTHONPATH, PATH, and the like. Docs:
  • conda: Sort of a combination of package manager and virtual environment. However, it only installed packages into environments, and is not limited to Python packages. It can also install other libraries (c, fortran, etc) into the environment. This is extremely useful for scientific computing, and the reason it was created. Docs for envs:

So, to install packages, there is pip and conda. To make virtual environments, there is venv and conda.

Advanced users can see this rosetta stone for reference.

On Triton we have added some packages on top of the Anaconda installation, so cloning the entire Anaconda environment to local conda environment will not work (not a good idea in the first place but some users try this every now and then).


Running Python with internal parallelization (OpenMP)

A simple parallel Python script using OpenMP. Both anaconda modules and optimized Python modules support OpenMP, but optimized versions are faster.

Python OpenMP example


#SBATCH -p short
#SBATCH -t 00:10:00
#SBATCH --nodes=1
#SBATCH --ntasks=1
#SBATCH --cpus-per-task=4
#SBATCH --mem-per-cpu=2G
#SBATCH -o parallel_Python.out

module load anaconda3

srun -c $SLURM_CPUS_PER_TASK python


import numpy as np
a = np.random.random([2000,2000])
a = a + a.T
b = np.linalg.pinv(a)

Running MPI parallelized Python with mpi4py

MPI parallelized Python requires a valid MPI installation that support our SLURM scheduler. Thus anaconda is not the best option. We have installed MPI-supporting Python versions to different toolchains.

Using mpi4py is quite easy. Example is provided below.

Python MPI4py

A simple script that utilizes mpi4py.

#!/usr/bin/env python
Parallel Hello World
from mpi4py import MPI
import sys
size = MPI.COMM_WORLD.Get_size()
rank = MPI.COMM_WORLD.Get_rank()
name = MPI.Get_processor_name()
    "Hello, World! I am process %d of %d on %s.\n"
    % (rank, size, name))

Running using only srun:

module load Python/2.7.11-goolf-triton-2016b
srun --time=00:10:00 -n 4 -p debug python

Example sbatch script mpi4py.slrm when running through sbatch:

#SBATCH --time=00:10:00
#SBATCH -n 4
#SBATCH -p debug

module load Python/2.7.11-goolf-triton-2016b
mpiexec -n $SLURM_NTASKS python