3. Storage on Spider


Spider is meant for processing of big data, thus it supports several storage backends. In this page you will learn:

  • which internal and external storage systems we support

  • best practices to manage your data

3.1. Internal storage

The available filesystems on Spider are CephFS and SSDs. Home and project spaces are mounted on CephFS, while the batch worker nodes have large scratch areas on local SSD.

CephFS is a distibuted parallel filesystem which stores files as objects and it is suitable for workloads that deal with comparably large files. Please note that conda/pip packages handling lots of small files can slow down the system response. For high I/O performance, we recommend the local scratch of the worker nodes on SSDs.

3.1.1. Transfers within Spider

To transfer data between directories located within Spider we advise you to use the unix commands cp and rsync. Other options may be available, but these are currently not supported by us.

Help on these commands can be found by (i) typing man cp or man rsync on the command line after logging into the system, or (ii) by contacting our helpdesk.


When copying data on the local filesystem and accross different project space folders we suggest you to copy your data and then remove the source files instead of moving the data. This will ensure that the new copy inherits the permissions of the destination project folder.

3.1.2. Spider filesystems Using Home

Spider provides to each user with a globally mounted home directory that is listed as /home/[USERNAME]. This directory is accessible from all nodes. This is also the directory that you as a user will find yourself in upon first login into this system. The data stored in the home folder will remain available for the duration of your project. Using project spaces

Similarly to home folders Spider’s project spaces are also available on all worked nodes, the following paths are available on your Spider UI:

  • /project/[Project Name]/Data

  • /project/[Project Name]/Public

  • /project/[Project Name]/Share

  • /project/[Project Name]/Software

This allows you to easily access your software, data and output from the worker nodes from the project spaces. See below for an example of a command that could be executed from a script on a worker node:

sh /project/[Project Name]/Software/[script].sh /project/[Project Name]/Data/[input file(s)] /home/[USER]/[output] Using scientific catalogs

Scientific catalogs allow for you to share software and data repositories accross projects. For example if you would like to share a large biobank of data with other research projects you could request access to upload to the scientific catalogue. Then it will be accessible from the worker nodes similarly to the /home and /project folders.

To request access to add a shared catalogue please reachout to our helpdesk. Using scratch

Each of Spider worker nodes has a large scratch area on local SSD. These scratch directories enable particularly efficient data I/O for large data processing pipelines that can be split up into many parallel independent jobs.

Please note that you should only use the scratch space to temporarily store and process data for the duration of the submitted job. The scratch space is cleaned regularly in an automatic fashion and hence can not used for long term storage.

For more information about how to use scratch during your compute jobs, please refer to using local scratch.


The local directories in the Spider, such as /tmp and /var/tmp, should not be used by the users. They are slow and small to be used for any tasks. Furthermore, the local directories in either login nodes or worker nodes are needed by the operating system itself and is cleaned up sometimes, for example when the system is rebooted.

In addition, if a user fill up /tmp on a node, the operating system will experience serious problems due to lack of space. Eventually the jobs submitted by you and other users who share the same node will also experience issues. It is strongly advised to calculate the temporary space needed by the software in advance, and request enough cores for your jobs to avoid filling up the /tmp of a node. Querying internal storage usage

As a mounted filesystem spider storage can be queried with local linux commands, but for optimal performance we recommend querying some preconfigured fattr tags instead of du commands that slow down the system.

The total usage of local spider storage is the total usage of projct home folders and project space together.

Please note that this will show your current usage, not the max, or average for the month.


# Project folder
getfattr -n ceph.dir.rbytes --absolute-names /project/[PROJECT]/

# Home folder
getfattr -n ceph.dir.rbytes --absolute-names /home/[PROJECT]-[USER]

3.2. External storage

3.2.1. Transfers from own system

If you are logged in as a user on Spider then we support scp, rsync, curl or wget to transfer data between Spider and your own Unix-based system. Other options may be available, but these are currently not supported by us.

  • Example of transferring data from Spider to your own system:

# Using scp
scp [spider-username]@spider.surfsara.nl:[path-to-your-spider-folder]/transferdata.tar.gz [path-to-your-local-folder]/

# Using rsync
rsync -a -W [spider-username]@spider.surfsara.nl:[path-to-your-spider-folder]/transferdata.tar.gz [path-to-your-local-folder]/
  • Example of transferring data from your own system to Spider:

# Using scp
scp [path-to-your-local-folder]/transferdata.tar.gz [spider-username]@spider.surfsara.nl:[path-to-your-spider-folder]/

# Using rsync
rsync -a -W [path-to-your-local-folder]/transferdata.tar.gz [spider-username]@spider.surfsara.nl:[path-to-your-spider-folder]/

3.2.2. SURF grid storage / dCache

SURF grid storage / dCache is our large scalable storage system for quickly processing huge volumes of data. The system runs on dCache software, that is designed for managing scientific data. You can use grid storage for disk or tape, or address both types of storage under a single virtual filesystem tree. Our grid storage / dCache service is a remote storage with an extremely fast network link to Spider. You may use the storage if your data does not fit within the storage allocation on Spider project space or if your application is I/O intensive.

There are several protocols and storage clients to interact with grid storage. On Spider we support two main methods to use grid storage, ADA and Grid interfaces:

Our ADA (Advanced dCache API) interface is based on the dCache API and the webdav protocol to access and process your data on dCache from any platform and with various authentication methods.

Our Grid interface is based on the Grid computing technology and the gridftp protocol to access and process your data on dCache from Grid compliant platforms and with X509 certificate authentication.

3.2.3. SURFsara Central archive

For long-term preservation of precious data SURFsara offers the Data Archive. Data ingested into the Data Archive is kept in two different tape libraries at two different locations in The Netherlands. The Data Archive is connected to all compute infrastructures, including Spider.

Access on Data Archive is not provided by default to the Spider projects. To request for Data Archive access, please contact our helpdesk.

If you already have access on Data Archive, then you can use it directly from Spider by using scp and rsync to transfer data between Spider and Data Archive:

  • Transfer data from Spider to Data Archive:

# Using scp
scp /home/[USERNAME]/transferdata.tar.gz [ARCHIVE_USERNAME]@archive.surfsara.nl:/home/[ARCHIVE_USERNAME]/

# Using rsync
rsync -a -W /home/[USERNAME]/transferdata.tar.gz [ARCHIVE_USERNAME]@archive.surfsara.nl:/home/[ARCHIVE_USERNAME]/
  • Transfer data from Data Archive to Spider:

# Using scp
scp [ARCHIVE_USERNAME]@archive.surfsara.nl:/home/[ARCHIVE_USERNAME]/transferdata.tar.gz /home/[USERNAME]/

# Using rsync
rsync -a -W [ARCHIVE_USERNAME]@archive.surfsara.nl:/home/[ARCHIVE_USERNAME]/transferdata.tar.gz /home/[USERNAME]/

In case that the file to be retrieved from Data Archive to Spider is not directly available on disk then the scp/rsync command will hang until the file is moved from tape to disk. Data Archive users can query the state of their files by logging into the Data Archive user interface and performing a dmls -l on the files of interest. Here the state of the file is either on disk (REG) or on tape (OFL). The Data Archive user interface is accessible via ssh from anywhere for users that have a login account and an example is given below:

ssh [ARCHIVE_USERNAME]@archive.surfsara.nl
      touch test.txt
      dmls  -l test.txt
      -rw-r--r--  1 homer    homer    0 2019-04-25 15:24 (REG) test.txt

Best practices for the usage of Data Archive are described on the Data Archive page.

3.3. Quota policy

Each Spider is granted specific compute and storage resources in the context of a project. For these resources there is currently no hard quotas. However, we monitor both the core-hour consumption and storage usage to prevent that users exceed their granted allocation.

3.4. Backup policy

The data stored on CephFS (home and project spaces) is disk only, replicated three times for redundancy. For disk-only data there is no backup. If you cannot afford to lose this data, we advise you to copy it elsewhere as well.

3.5. Data Ownership Policy

The data stored in the /project folder is owned by the grant’s signing authority. If data is owned by a user who has left the project in the /project folder we ask that you request that user change the ownership to an active project member before leaving.

The data stored in the /home folders is owned by individual users of those folders and can not be transferred to another user without their consent. We are also obligated to remove a users data no more than 6 months after they have left the project.

See also

Still need help? Contact our helpdesk