Setup a computer

A computer in AiiDA denotes any computational resource (with a batch job scheduler) on which you will run your calculations. Computers typically are clusters or supercomputers.

Remote computer requirements

Requirements for a computer are:

  • It must run a Unix-like operating system

  • It must have bash installed

  • It should have a batch scheduler installed (see here for a list of supported batch schedulers)

  • It must be accessible from the machine that runs AiiDA using one of the available transports (see below).


AiiDA will use bash on the remote computer, regardless of the default shell. Please ensure that your remote bash configuration does not load a different shell.

The first step is to choose the transport to connect to the computer. Typically, you will want to use the SSH transport, apart from a few special cases where SSH connection is not possible (e.g., because you cannot setup a password-less connection to the computer). In this case, you can install AiiDA directly on the remote cluster, and use the local transport (in this way, commands to submit the jobs are simply executed on the AiiDA machine, and files are simply copied on the disk instead of opening an SFTP connection).

If you plan to use the local transport, you can skip to the next section.

If you plan to use the SSH transport, you have to configure a password-less login from your user to the cluster. To do so type first (only if you do not already have some keys in your local ~/.ssh directory - i.e. files like

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -m PEM


The -m PEM flag is necessary in newer versions of OpenSSL that switched to a different key format by default. As of 2019-08, the paramiko library used by AiiDA only supports the PEM format.

Then copy your keys to the remote computer (in ~/.ssh/authorized_keys) with:


replacing YOURUSERNAME and YOURCLUSTERADDRESS by respectively your username and cluster address. Finally add the following lines to ~/.ssh/config (leaving an empty line before and after):

  IdentityFile YOURRSAKEY

replacing YOURRSAKEY by the path to the rsa private key you want to use (it should look like ~/.ssh/id_rsa).


In principle you don’t have to put the IdentityFile line if you have only one rsa key in your ~/.ssh folder.

Before proceeding to setup the computer, be sure that you are able to connect to your cluster using:


without the need to type a password. Moreover, make also sure you can connect via sftp (needed to copy files). The following command:


should show you a prompt without errors (possibly with a message saying Connected to YOURCLUSTERADDRESS).


If the ssh command works, but the sftp command does not (e.g. it just prints Connection closed), a possible reason can be that there is a line in your ~/.bashrc (on the cluster) that either produces text output or an error. Remove/comment it until no output or error is produced: this should make sftp work again.

Finally, try also:


replacing QUEUE_VISUALIZATION_COMMAND by the scheduler command that prints on screen the status of the queue on the cluster (i.e. qstat for PBSpro scheduler, squeue for SLURM, etc.). It should print a snapshot of the queue status, without any errors.


If there are errors with the previous command, then edit your ~/.bashrc file in the remote computer and add a line at the beginning that adds the path to the scheduler commands, typically (here for PBSpro):

export PATH=$PATH:/opt/pbs/default/bin

Or, alternatively, find the path to the executables (like using which qsub).


If you need your remote .bashrc to be sourced before you execute the code (for instance to change the PATH), make sure the .bashrc file does not contain lines like:

[ -z "$PS1" ] && return


case $- in
    *i*) ;;
    *) return;;

in the beginning (these would prevent the bashrc to be executed when you ssh to the remote computer). You can check that e.g. the PATH variable is correctly set upon ssh, by typing (in your local computer):



If you need to ssh to a computer A first, from which you can then connect to computer B you wanted to connect to, you can use the proxy_command feature of ssh, that we also support in AiiDA. For more information, see Using the proxy_command option with ssh.

Computer setup and configuration

The configuration of computers happens in two steps.


The commands use some readline extensions to provide default answers, that require an advanced terminal. Therefore, run the commands from a standard terminal, and not from embedded terminals as the ones included in text editors, unless you know what you are doing. For instance, the terminal embedded in emacs is known to give problems.

  1. Setup of the computer, using the:

    verdi computer setup

    command. This command allows to create a new computer instance in the DB.


    The code will ask you a few pieces of information. At every prompt, you can type the ? character and press <enter> to get a more detailed explanation of what is being asked.


    You can press <CTRL>+C at any moment to abort the setup process. Nothing will be stored in the DB.

    Here is a list of what is asked, together with an explanation.

    • Computer label: the (user-friendly) label of the new computer instance which is about to be created in the DB (the label is used for instance when you have to pick a computer to launch a calculation on it). Labels must be unique. This command should be thought as a AiiDA-wise configuration of computer, independent of the AiiDA user that will actually use it.

    • Fully-qualified hostname: the fully-qualified hostname of the computer to which you want to connect (i.e., with all the dots:, and not just bellatrix). Type localhost for the local transport.

    • Description: A human-readable description of this computer; this is useful if you have a lot of computers and you want to add some text to distinguish them (e.g.: “cluster of computers at EPFL, installed in 2012, 2 GB of RAM per CPU”)

    • Enabled: either True or False; if False, the computer is disabled and calculations associated with it will not be submitted. This allows to disable temporarily a computer if it is giving problems or it is down for maintenance, without the need to delete it from the DB.

    • Transport plugin: The type of the transport to be used. A list of valid transport types can be obtained typing ?

    • Scheduler plugin: The name of the plugin to be used to manage the job scheduler on the computer. A list of valid scheduler plugins can be obtained typing ?. See here for a documentation of scheduler plugins in AiiDA.

    • shebang line This is the first line in the beginning of the submission script. The default is #!/bin/bash. You can change this in order, for example, to add options, such as the -l flag. Note that AiiDA only supports bash at this point!

    • Work directory on the computer: The absolute path of the directory on the remote computer where AiiDA will run the calculations (often, it is the scratch of the computer). You can (should) use the {username} replacement, that will be replaced by your username on the remote computer automatically: this allows the same computer to be used by different users, without the need to setup a different computer for each one. Example:

    • Mpirun command: The mpirun command needed on the cluster to run parallel MPI programs. You can (should) use the {tot_num_mpiprocs} replacement, that will be replaced by the total number of cpus, or the other scheduler-dependent fields (see the scheduler docs for more information). Some examples:

      mpirun -np {tot_num_mpiprocs}
      aprun -n {tot_num_mpiprocs}
    • Default number of CPUs per machine: The number of MPI processes per machine that should be executed if it is not otherwise specified. Use 0 to specify no default value.

    At the end, the command will open your default editor on a file containing a summary of the configuration up to this point, and the possibility to add bash commands that will be executed either before the actual execution of the job (under ‘pre-execution script’) or after the script submission (under ‘Post execution script’). These additional lines need may set up the environment on the computer, for example loading modules or exporting environment variables, for example:

    export NEWVAR=1
    source some/file


    Don’t specify settings here that are specific to a code, calculation or scheduler – you can set further pre-execution commands at the Code and CalcJob level.

    When you are done editing, save and quit (e.g. <ESC>:wq<ENTER> in vim). The computer has now been created in the database but you still need to configure access to it using your credentials.

    In order to avoid having to retype the setup information the next time round, it is also possible provide some (or all) of the information described above via a configuration file using:

    verdi computer setup --config computer.yml

    where computer.yml is a configuration file in the YAML format. This file contains the information in a series of key:value pairs:

    label: "localhost"
    hostname: "localhost"
    transport: local
    scheduler: "direct"
    work_dir: "/home/max/.aiida_run"
    mpirun_command: "mpirun -np {tot_num_mpiprocs}"
    mpiprocs_per_machine: "2"
    prepend_text: |
      module load mymodule
      export NEWVAR=1


The list of the keys that can be used is available from the options flags of the command:

verdi computer setup --help

Note the syntax differences: remove the -- prefix and replace - within the keys by the underscore _.

  1. Configuration of the computer, using the:

    verdi computer configure TRANSPORTTYPE COMPUTERNAME

    command, with the appropriate transport type (ssh or local) and computer label.

    The configuration allows to access more detailed configurations, that are often user-dependent and depend on the specific transport.

    The command will try to provide automatically default answers, that can be selected by pressing enter.

    For local transport, the only information required is the minimum time interval between conections to the computer.

    For ssh transport, the following will be asked:

    • User name: your username on the remote machine

    • port Nr: the port to connect to (the default SSH port is 22)

    • Look_for_keys: automatically look for the private key in ~/.ssh. Default: False.

    • SSH key file: the absolute path to your private SSH key. You can leave it empty to use the default SSH key, if you set look_for_keys to True.

    • Connection timeout: A timeout in seconds if there is no response (e.g., the machine is down. You can leave it empty to use the default value.)

    • Allow_ssh agent: If True, it will try to use an SSH agent.

    • SSH proxy_command: Leave empty if you do not need a proxy command (i.e., if you can directly connect to the machine). If you instead need to connect to an intermediate computer first, you need to provide here the command for the proxy: see documentation here for how to use this option, and in particular the notes here for the format of this field.

    • Compress file transfer: True to compress the traffic (recommended)

    • GSS auth: yes when using Kerberos token to connect

    • GSS kex: yes when using Kerberos token to connect, in some cases (depending on your .ssh/config file)

    • GSS deleg_creds: yes when using Kerberos token to connect, in some cases (depending on your .ssh/config file)

    • GSS host: hostname when using Kerberos token to connect (defaults to the remote computer hostname)

    • Load system host keys: True to load the known hosts keys from the default SSH location (recommended)

    • key policy: What is the policy in case the host is not known. It is a string among the following:

      • RejectPolicy (default, recommended): reject the connection if the host is not known.

      • WarningPolicy (not recommended): issue a warning if the host is not known.

      • AutoAddPolicy (not recommended): automatically add the host key at the first connection to the host.

    • Connection cooldown time (s): The minimum time interval between consecutive connection openings to the remote machine.

After setup and configuration have been completed, your computer is ready to go!


If the cluster you are using requires authentication through a Kerberos token (that you need to obtain before using ssh), you typically need to install libffi (sudo apt-get install libffi-dev under Ubuntu), and make sure you install the ssh_kerberos optional dependencies during the installation process of AiiDA. Then, if your .ssh/config file is configured properly (in particular includes all the necessary GSSAPI options), verdi computer configure will contain already the correct suggestions for all the gss options needed to support Kerberos.


To check if you set up the computer correctly, execute:

verdi computer test COMPUTERNAME

that will run a few tests (file copy, file retrieval, check of the jobs in the scheduler queue) to verify that everything works as expected.


If you are not sure if your computer is already set up, use the command:

verdi computer list

to get a list of existing computers, and:

verdi computer show COMPUTERNAME

to get detailed information on the specific computer named COMPUTERNAME. You have also the:



verdi computer delete COMPUTERNAME

commands, to rename a computer or remove it from the database.


You can delete computers only if no entry in the database is linked to them (as for instance Calculations, or RemoteData objects). Otherwise, you will get an error message.


It is possible to disable a computer.

Doing so will prevent AiiDA from connecting to the given computer to check the state of calculations or to submit new calculations. This is particularly useful if, for instance, the computer is under maintenance but you still want to use AiiDA with other computers, or submit the calculations in the AiiDA database anyway.

The relevant commands are:

verdi computer enable COMPUTERNAME
verdi computer disable COMPUTERNAME

Note that the above commands will disable the computer for all AiiDA users.

On not bombarding the remote computer with requests

Some machine (particularly at supercomputing centres) may not tolerate opening connections and executing scheduler commands with a high frequency. To limit this AiiDA currently has two settings:

  • The transport safe open interval, and,

  • the minimum job poll interval

Neither of these can ever be violated. AiiDA will not try to update the jobs list on a remote machine until the job poll interval has elapsed since the last update (the first update will be immediate) at which point it will request a transport. Because of this the maximum possible time before a job update could be the sum of the two intervals, however this is unlikely to happen in practice.

The transport open interval is currently hardcoded by the transport plugin; typically for SSH it’s longer than for local transport.

The job poll interval can be set programmatically on the corresponding Computer object in verdi shell:


would set the transport interval on a computer called ‘localhost’ to 30 seconds.


All of these intervals apply per worker, meaning that a daemon with multiple workers will not necessarily, overall, respect these limits. For the time being there is no way around this and if these limits must be respected then do not run with more than one worker.