Singularity Containers

For more information see:

Basic Idea

The basic idea behind Singularity containers is that software is packaged into a container (basically an entire self-contained operating system!) that is based on a Docker image that can then be run by the user. This allows hard to install software to be easily packaged and used - because you are packaging the entire OS!

During runtime, the root file system / is changed to the one inside the image and file systems are brought into the container through bind mounts. This sounds complicated, but in practice this is easy due to singularity_wrapper written for Triton.

Basic Usage

While the image itself is read-only, remember that /home, /m, /scratch and /l etc. are not. If you edit/remove files in these locations within the image, that will happen outside the image as well.

On Triton, you just need to load the proper module. This will set some environment variables and enable the use of singularity_wrapper.


singularity_wrapper is written so that when you load a module written for a singularity image, all the important options are already handled for you. It has three basic commands:

  1. singularity_wrapper shell <shell> - Gives user a shell within the image (specify <shell> to say which shell you want).

  2. singularity_wrapper exec <cmd> - Executes a program within the image.

  3. singularity_wrapper run <parameters> - Runs the singularity image. What this means depends on the image in question - each image will define a “run command” which does something. If you don’t know what this is, use the first two instead.

Under the hood, singularity_wrapper does this:

  1. Choosing appropriate image based on module version

  2. Binding of basic paths (-B /l:/l, /m:/m, /scratch:/scratch)

  3. Loading of system libraries within images (if needed) (e.g. -B /lib64/nvidia:/opt/nvidia)

  4. Setting working directory within image (if needed)

Power usage

These are the “raw” singularity commands. If you use these, you have to configure the images and bind mounts yourself (which is done automatically by singularity_wrapper). If you module show the module you can get hints about what happens.

Singularity enables three base commands to user:

  1. singularity shell <image> - Gives user a shell within the image (see singularity shell --help for more information on flags etc.)

  2. singularity exec <image> <cmd> - Executes a program within the image (see singularity exec --help for more information on flags etc.)

  3. singularity run <image> <parameters> - Runs the singularity image. What this means depends on the image in question. (see singularity run --help for more information on flags etc.)

Creating your own Singularity images to run in Triton

All images used in Triton are built from Docker images stored in our private Docker registry in They build automatically from Docker pushes using our continuous integration builder. If you want to build your own Singularity image to Triton, we can create a user for you to the registry and add your image to the automatic build.

Even though the system is in production it is still being tested.
Thus there might be changes in the future.

Steps to get your images building are outlined below. You’ll need to do steps 1 to 3 only once.

Step 1: Log in to

Go to and click Gitlab under Social logins. This will redirect you to a Gitlab page that you can use for authentication. In this page use your Aalto username and password to login.

In the future we’ll improve the authentication page.

Step 2: Create an application token

For added security you cannot use your main password for docker login. By clicking on your username, you’ll get to your user settings. From there, do the following:

  1. Click Create new token in the Application tokens-section.

  2. Choose name for the token and click create.

  3. Copy the application token that is visible on the right side of your screen.

Step 3: Docker login

On your own workstation run:

docker login

Your username is same as your Aalto username. As a password give the application token you created in step 2.

Step 4: Push your images to registry

If you have an existing image in Dockerhub, you can run:

docker pull <dockerhub user>/<image>:<tag>
docker tag <dockerhub user>/<image>:<tag><your username>/<image>:<tag>
docker push<your username>/<image>:<tag>

For example:

docker pull library/ubuntu:latest
docker tag library/ubuntu:latest$USER/ubuntu:latest
docker push$USER/ubuntu:latest

If you are building your image from Dockerfile, you can run:

docker build -it$USER/my_image:latest /path/to/my/dockerfile
docker push$USER/my_image:latest

Step 5: Let us know what image you want to have in Triton


Do note that images built to Triton are visible to all users. Do not include sensitive code/data in the docker images. You should retreive such data from your project/work folder during job runtime.

We need the following information for the automatic build:

  • What is the Docker url of the image (e.g.$USER/my_image)?

  • What tags do you want built (we recommend you use latest and dev)?

  • Does the image utilize GPUs?

After that we’ll set up the automated build. Every time you push a newer version of said image:tag the image will update in Triton if the build was successful.

After the build has been done you can load up your new image in Triton with:

module use /share/apps/singularity-ci/centos/modules/$USER
module load my_image:latest

and launch the programs within using the singularity_wrapper exec.