Link to CHTC Home Page

Logins have changed for users with accounts on submit1 and submit2: please see the login guide for details on your new login information.

Managing Large Data in HTC Jobs

Which Option is the Best for Your Files?

Input Sizes Output Sizes Link to Guide File Location How to Transfer Availability, Security
0 - 100 MB per file, up to 500 MB per job 0 - 5 GB per job Small Input/Output File Transfer via HTCondor /home submit file; filename in transfer_input_files CHTC, UW Grid, and OSG; works for your jobs
100 MB - 1 GB per repeatedly-used file Not available for output Large Input File Availability Via Squid /squid submit file; http link in transfer_input_files CHTC, UW Grid, and OSG; files are made *publicly-readable* via an HTTP address
100 MB - TBs per job-specific file; repeatedly-used files > 1GB 4 GB - TBs per job Large Input and Output File Availability Via Staging /staging job executable; copy or move within the job a portion of CHTC; accessible only to your jobs

When submitting jobs to CHTC’s High Throughput Computing (HTC) system, there is a distinct location for staging data that is too large to be handled at scale via the default HTCondor file transfer mechanism. This location should be used for jobs that require input files larger than 100MB and/or that generate output files larger than 3-4GB.

To best understand the below information, users should already be familiar with:

  1. Using the command-line to: navigate directories, create/edit/copy/move/delete files and directories, and run intended programs (aka “executables”).
  2. CHTC’s Intro to Running HTCondor Jobs
  3. CHTC’s guide for Typical File Transfer

1. Policies and Intended Use


A. Intended Use

Our large data staging location is only for input and output files that are individually too large to be managed by our other data movement methods, HTCondor file transfer or SQUID. This includes individual input files greater than 100MB and individual output files greater than 3-4GB.

Users are expected to abide by this intended use expectation and follow the instructions for using /staging written in this guide (e.g. files placed in /staging should NEVER be listed in the submit file, but rather accessed via the job’s executable (aka .sh) script).

B. Access to Large Data Staging

Any one with a CHTC account whose data meets the intended use above can request space in our large data staging area. A Research Computing Facilitator will review the request and follow up. If appropriate, access will be granted via a directory in the system and a quota. Quotas are based on individual user needs; if a larger quota is needed, see our Request a Quota Change guide.

We can also create group or shared spaces by request.

C. User Data Management Responsibilities

As with all CHTC file spaces:

  • Keep copies: Our large data staging area is not backed up and has the possibility of data loss; keep copies of ANY and ALL data in /staging in another, non-CHTC location.
  • Remove data: We expect that users remove data from /staging AS SOON AS IT IS NO LONGER NEEDED FOR ACTIVELY-RUNNING JOBS.
  • Monitor usage and quota: Each /staging folder has both a size and “items” quota. Quota changes can be requested as described in our Request a Quota Change guide.

CHTC staff reserve the right to remove data from our large data staging location (or any CHTC file system) at any time.

D. Data Access Within Jobs

Staged large data will be available only within the the CHTC pool, on a subset of our total capacity.

Staged data are owned by the user, and only the user’s own jobs can access these files (unless the user specifically modifies unix file permissions to make certain files available for other users).

2. Staging Large Data

In order to stage large data for use on CHTC’s HTC system:

  • Get a directory: Large data staging is available by request.
  • Reduce file counts: Combine and compress files that are used together.
  • Use the transfer server: Upload your data via our dedicated file transfer server.
  • Remove files after jobs complete: our data staging space is quota controlled and not backed up.

A. Get a Directory

Space in our large data staging area is granted by request. If you think you need a directory, email CHTC’s Research Computing Facilitators (

The created directory will exist at this path: /staging/username

B. Reduce File Counts

Data placed in our large data /staging location should be stored in as few files as possible (ideally, one file per job), and will be used by a job only after being copied from /staging into the job working directory (see below). Similarly, large output should first be written to the job working directory then compressed in to a single file before being copied to /staging at the end of the job.

To prepare job-specific data that is large enough to pre-staging and exists as multiple files or directories (or a directory of multiple files), first create a compressed tar package before placing the file in /staging (either before submitting jobs, or within jobs before moving output to /staging). For example:

$ tar -czvf job_package.tar.gz file_or_dir 

C. Use the Transfer Server

Movement of data into/out of /staging before and after jobs should only be performed via CHTC’s transfer server, as below, and not via a CHTC submit server. After obtaining a user directory within /staging and an account on the transfer server, copy relevant files directly into this user directory from your own computer:

  • Example scp command on your own Linux or Mac computer:
    $ scp large.file 


  • If using a Windows computer:
    • Using a file transfer application, like WinSCP, directly drag the large file from its location on your computer to a location within /staging/username/ on

D. Remove Files After Jobs Complete

As with all CHTC file spaces, data should be removed from /staging AS SOON AS IT IS NO LONGER NEEDED FOR ACTIVELY-RUNNING JOBS. Even if it will be used it the future, it should be deleted from and copied back at a later date. Files can be taken off of /staging using similar mechanisms as uploaded files (as above).

3. Using Staged Files in a Job

As shown above, the staging directory for large data is /staging/username. All interaction with files in this location should occur within your job’s main executable.

A. Accessing Large Input Files

To use large data placed in the /staging location, add commands to your job executable that copy input from /staging into the working directory of the job. Program should then use files from the working directory, being careful to remove the coiped files from the working directory before the completion of the job (so that they’re not copied back to the submit server as perceived output).

Example, if executable is a shell script:

# First, copy the compressed tar file from /staging into the working directory,
#  and un-tar it to reveal your large input file(s) or directories:
cp /staging/username/large_input.tar.gz ./
tar -xzvf large_input.tar.gz
# Command for myprogram, which will use files from the working directory
./myprogram large_input.txt myoutput.txt
# Before the script exits, make sure to remove the file(s) from the working directory
rm large_input.tar.gz large_input.txt

B. Moving Large Output Files

If jobs produce large (more than 3-4GB) output files, have your executable write the output file(s) to a location within the working directory, and then make sure to move this large file to the /staging folder, so that it’s not transferred back to the home directory, as all other “new” files in the working directory will be.

Example, if executable is a shell script:

# Command to save output to the working directory:
./myprogram myinput.txt output_dir/
# Tar and mv output to staging, then delete from the job working directory:
tar -czvf large_output.tar.gz output_dir/ other_large_files.txt
mv large_output.tar.gz /staging/username/
rm other_large_files.txt

C. Handling Standard Output (if needed)

In some instances, your software may produce very large standard output (what would typically be output to the command screen, if you ran the command for yourself, instead of having HTCondor do it). Because such standard output from your software will usually be captured by HTCondor in the submit file “output” file, this “output” file WILL still be transferred by HTCondor back to your home directory on the submit server, which may be very bad for you and others, if that captured standard output is very large.

In these cases, it is useful to redirect the standard output of commands in your executable to a file in the working directory, and then move it into /staging at the end of the job.

Example, if “myprogram” produces very large standard output, and is run from a script (bash) executable:

# script to run myprogram,
# redirecting large standard output to a file in the working directory:
./myprogram myinput.txt myoutput.txt > large_std.out
# tar and move large files to staging so they're not copied to the submit server:
tar -czvf large_stdout.tar.gz large_std.out
cp large_stdout.tar.gz /staging/username/subdirectory
rm large_std.out large_stdout.tar.gz

4. Submit Jobs Using Staged Data

In order to properly submit jobs using staged large data, always do the following:

  • Submit from /home: ONLY submit jobs from within your home directory (/home/username), and NEVER from within /staging.

In your submit file:

  • No large data in the submit file: Do NOT list any /staging files in any of the submit file lines, including: executable, log, output, error, transfer_input_files. Rather, your job’s ENTIRE interaction with files in /staging needs to occur WITHIN each job’s executable, when it runs within the job (as shown above)
  • Request sufficient disk space: Using request_disk, request an amount of disk space that reflects the total of a) input data that each job will copy into the job working directory from /staging, and b) any output that will be created in the job working directory.
  • Require access to /staging: Include the CHTC specific attribute that requires servers with access to /staging

See the below submit file, as an example, which would be submitted from within the user’s /home directory:

### Example submit file for a single job that stages large data
# Files for the below lines MUST all be somewhere within /home/username,
# and not within /staging/username

executable =
log = myprogram.log
output = $(Cluster).out
error = $(Cluster).err

## Do NOT list the large data files here
transfer_input_files = myprogram

# IMPORTANT! Require execute servers that can access /staging
Requirements = (Target.HasCHTCStaging == true)

# Make sure to still include lines like "request_memory", "request_disk", "request_cpus", etc. 


Note: in no way should files on /staging be specified in the submit file, directly or indirectly! For example, do not use the initialdir option ( Submitting Multiple Jobs in Individual Directories) to specify a directory on /staging.

5. Checking your Quota, Data Use, and File Counts

You can use the command get_quotas to see what disk and items quotas are currently set for a given directory path. This command will also let you see how much disk is in use and how many items are present in a directory:

[username@transfer ~]$ get_quotas /staging/username

Alternatively, the ncdu command can also be used to see how many files and directories are contained in a given path:

[username@transfer ~]$ ncdu /staging/username

When ncdu has finished running, the output will give you a total file count and allow you to navigate between subdirectories for even more details. Type q when you're ready to exit the output viewer. More info here: