python parallel map on kubernetes
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rohanpai Merge pull request #47 from hammerlab/rohan/fix_pip_issue
fix the issue of pip not taking in multiple args
Latest commit 443d743 Jun 22, 2017

kubeface Build Status

Python library for parallel maps running directly on Kubernetes. Intended for running many expensive tasks (minutes in runtime). Alpha stage. Currently supports only Google Cloud.


Kubeface aims for reasonably efficient execution of many long running Python tasks with medium sized (up to a few gigabytes) inputs and outputs. Design choices and assumptions:

  • Each task runs in its own bare kubernetes pod. There is no state shared between tasks
  • All communication is through Google Storage Buckets
  • Each task's input and output must fit in memory, but we do not assume that more than one task's data fits simultaneously
  • Work performed as part of jobs that crash can be re-used for reruns
  • We favor debuggability over performance

The primary motivating application has been neural network model selection for the MHCflurry project.

See for a simple working example.


  • Master: the Python process the user launches. It uses kubeface to run jobs
  • Worker: a process running external to the master (probably on a cluster) that executes a task
  • Job: Each call to creates a job
  • Task: Each invocation of the function given to map is a task


  • The kubernetes backend runs tasks on Kubernetes. This is what is used in production
  • The local-process backend runs tasks as local processes. Useful for development and testing of both kubeface and code that uses it
  • The local-process-docker backend runs tasks as local processes in a docker container. This is used for testing kubeface

Life of a job

If a user calls (where client is a kubeface.Client instance): x: x**2, range(10))

This creates a job containing 10 tasks. The return value is a generator that will yield the square of the numbers 0-9. The job is executed as follows:

  • Submission: for each task:
    • an input file containing a pickled (we use the dill library) representation of the task's input is uploaded to cloud storage. In this example the input data is a number 0-9.
    • A kubectl command is issued that creates a bare pod whose entrypoint (i.e. what runs in the pod) installs kubeface if necessary then calls the command _kubeface-run-task <input-path> <output-path>.
    • The _kubeface-run-task command downloads the input file from cloud storage, runs the task, and uploads the result to the specified path.
  • After all tasks have been submitted, kubeface waits for all results to appear in cloud storage. It may speculatively re-submit some tasks that appear to be straggling or crashed.
  • Once all results are available, each task’s result is read by the master and yielded to the client code

Docker images

Kubeface tasks execute in the context of a particular docker image, since they run in a kubernetes pod. You can use any docker image with python installed. If your docker image does not have kubeface installed, then by default kubeface will try to install itself using pip. This is inefficient since it will run for every task. If you plan on running many tasks it's a good idea to create your own docker image with kubeface installed.

Inspecting job status

Kubeface writes out HTML and JSON status pages to cloud storage and logs to stdout. However, the best way to figure out what's going on with your job is to use kubernetes directly, via kubectl get pods and kubectl logs <pod-name>.


From a checkout:

pip install -e .

To run the tests:

# Setting this environment variable is optional.
# If you set it in the tests will run against a real google storage bucket.
# See;
# you need to get Application Default Credentials before writing to your bucket.
KUBEFACE_STORAGE=gs://kubeface-test  # tests will write to gs://kubeface-test.

# Run tests:

Shell Example

The kubeface-run command runs a job from the shell, which is useful for testing or simple tasks.

If you don’t already have a kubernetes cluster running, use a command like this to start one:

gcloud config set compute/zone us-east1-c
gcloud components install kubectl  # if you haven't already installed kubectl
gcloud container clusters create kubeface-cluster-$(whoami) \
    --scopes storage-full \
    --zone us-east1-c \
    --num-nodes=2 \
    --enable-autoscaling --min-nodes=1 --max-nodes=100 \

You should see your cluster listed here:

Then run this to set it as the default for your session:

gcloud config set container/cluster kubeface-cluster-$(whoami)
gcloud container clusters get-credentials kubeface-cluster-$(whoami)

Now launch a command:

kubeface-run \
    --expression 'value**2' \
    --generator-expression 'range(10)' \
    --kubeface-max-simultaneous-tasks 10 \
    --kubeface-backend kubernetes \
    --kubeface-worker-image continuumio/anaconda3 \
    --kubeface-kubernetes-task-resources-cpu 1 \
    --kubeface-kubernetes-task-resources-memory-mb 500 \
    --verbose \
    --out-csv /tmp/result.csv

If you kill the above command, you can run this to kill all the running pods in your cluster:

kubectl delete pods --all

When you’re done working, delete your cluster:

gcloud container clusters delete kubeface-cluster-$(whoami)