Writing RMS Scripts - Basics

An RMS script is a text file, just like any Perl or Python script. And the bulk of the script itself will actually be written in bash, Perl, Python or R (whichever language you choose to write each step in). The RMS parts are three elements that define the RMS-specific parts of the script:

  • “Step divider” lines that begin with “#### ” (four pound signs followed by a space). These lines separate the steps of the pipeline.
  • Option lines that begin with “##word” or “##word=”, which are used to define optional values for the header or steps of the pipeline. The specific allowed values of “word” are different for each section of the RMS script.
  • Template elements of the form “<column>” or “<column,option…>” in the text of the steps, which define the fill-in-the-blank elements that RMS replaces when creating each executable command that is run.

An RMS script can be as simple as a single step divider line followed by the script for that step, but typically there are up to three common sections in most scripts:

  • An optional “header” section which processes the command-line arguments and/or provides hard-coded input to RMS.
  • An optional “environment” section which is typically used to setup the environment variables ($PATH, …) for each of the commands run by RMS.
  • One or more “step” sections, which are the steps of the script.

Writing RMS Scripts - Details describes the other optional sections that can be included in RMS scripts, and goes into complete detail about the features of each section.

Header Section

The header section occurs before the first step divider line (and before the environment section), and is used either to hard-code some input for RMS or to provide a script that should be run to process the command-line arguments. The examples in Getting Started - Hello World!, part 2 contained header sections with hard-coded RMS directives, and the four most common directives that can be included in the header are the following:

  • The “argv” directive to tell RMS to convert the command-line arguments into a single column spreadsheet with the given column header name:

  • The “sheet” directive to give RMS a hard-coded spreadsheet of values. The format of the sheet directive is similar to how bash script lines can be passed as standard input to a program, using a marker like “EOF” at the beginning and end of the text. An example here is the following:

    Sample File Type
    S1 S1_reads_R1.fastq R1
    S1 S1_reads_R2.fastq R2
    S2 S2_reads_R1.fastq R1
    S2 S2_reads_R2.fastq R2

    The lines between “##sheet=EOF” and “EOF” contain the spreadsheet data that RMS will parse and include in its input (in this case, a three column spreadsheet with “Sample”, “File” and “Type” columns).

  • The “option” directive to pass RMS command-line options. These options will be parsed as would options actually occurring on the command-line, however options found on the command-line will override options given in the RMS script header.

    ##option="-s --log=-"
  • User-defined, name-value lines of the form “##name=( values )”, where the “name” can then be used in template elements in the script, and are replaced with the value or values found within the parentheses. This is commonly used to define a option value to the rest of the script (like the genome to be used), or create a set of values to generate commands for (like a range of k-mer values to test when aligning reads):

    ##genome=( hg19 )
    ##kmer=( 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 )

The full set of header directives is described in Writing RMS Scripts - Details. Each of these directive lines must occur at the beginning of the line, and must be of the form “##name”, “##name=value” or “##name=(…)”, and may not contain spaces, except between the parentheses or the quotes. The reason for this is to limit the interference the RMS line format may have with real Python or Perl program comment lines, so that they are not mistaken for RMS lines.

Header Script

The header section may also contain a bash, Python, Perl or R script, which is used to allow the script to process the command-line arguments, instead of RMS. If there is at least one line in the header that is not a RMS directive line, and is not a comment line beginning with “#”, then RMS assumes that the header contains a script, and will pass it the command-line arguments for processing.

What this header section script needs to do is to output RMS directive lines on its standard output, which is piped into RMS to define the input for the program. For example, a Python script which implements the “##argv=Arg” functionality is the following:


import sys

print "##sheet=EOF"
print "Arg"

for arg in sys.argv[1:]:
   print arg

print "EOF"

The first line of this script is “##python”, telling RMS that the language for the script is Python (there is also “##perl”, “##R” and “##bash” for those languages). The rest of the script is Python code which outputs the line for a “##sheet” directive, defining a one-column spreadsheet (with column header “Arg”) containing the command-line arguments.

Any functionality is permitted in this script. You can also read files, use subprocess to call commands, whatever is necessary to parse the command-line arguments and output the spreadsheet data and options to be used in the RMS execution (on its standard output). Once this script terminates, RMS will process the directives and begin the execution.

Environment Section

Many clusters don’t support the inheritance of environment variables (PATH, PWD, …) for the jobs that are submitted, so the commands that RMS executes across the cluster may not begin with the environment values that exist when you execute the RMS command.

RMS takes care of loading your ~/.bash_profile and ~/.bashrc files (so, no need for “source ~/.bashrc” in your scripts), and also sets the current working directory for the command to be the same as when you started the RMS command (so, no need for “cd /my/hardcoded/starting/directory” in your scripts either). But, it may not have the other environment variables, and, in particular for writing scripts to be run by other users, there may not be an assurance that the software you want to run in the RMS script is already setup in the users’ environment.

The environment section is used to setup the environment variables for each commands’ script execution. It begins with a “##env” line before the first step divider line, and all of the lines between “##env” and the first step divider line are assumed to be the environment section.

For example, if you want to write an RMS script to use samtools to index one or more bam files, but are not sure that the samtools executable is on each user’s PATH (but you know the executable is in /opt/bioinfo/software/samtools-1.2), then the following script will ensure that the samtools executable is found for each execution of the command:


export PATH=/opt/bioinfo/software/samtools-1.2:$PATH

#### index file -
samtools index <file>

Whatever lines you would normally put at the beginning of a bash script to setup the environment can be put here, and it will get loaded at the beginning of every command execution.

Environment sections are also used for Python, Perl or R scripts. When RMS creates an executable command, it creates a bash script that contains (1) RMS initialization lines, (2) the environment section lines and (3) a language-specific body. For RMS steps whose language is bash, RMS just adds the lines from the RMS step directly into the bash script. For the other languages, the bash script contains a launcher which runs python, perl or Rscript on a file containing the lines from the RMS step.

Step Section

The rest of the RMS script are the “step sections” that make up the pipeline steps to be executed. Each section begins with a step divider line and RMS option lines. The rest of the section is a bash, python, perl or R script, written (with two exceptions) just as they would be written as a separate script. The first exception is that the script can contain “template elements”, fill-in-the-blank elements like “<file>” that RMS will replace when it generates the command script. The second exception is that any lines occurring in the environment section (described above) do not need to be included in each step.

The step divider line that begins a step section serves three purposes, (1) mark the beginning of a new step, (2) define what commands to generate for the step and (3) support incremental execution with a “file test” to determine when to skip the execution of the step. The format of the step divider line is the following:

#### name column(s) [filetest]

The “name” value is the name of the step, is shown in progress output and error messages, and can be any non-whitespace string. The “column(s)” value is a comma-separated list of the spreadsheet column headers which will be used to determine what commands are generated for this step during execution. The optional “filetest” value is a filename or path to be checked for existence during execution. If that file/path does exist when that command is ready to be run, the command is skipped (not run) as part of the execution.

The “column(s)” value is what RMS uses to determine what commands will be generated for the pipeline step. RMS takes the spreadsheet data given as input, finds the distinct sets of values in those columns of the spreadsheet, and will create one command for each distinct set. So, if the column(s) value is “Sample”, one command will be created for each sample in the column. If it is “Sample,File”, one command is created for each distinct pair of Sample and File values. If the column value is the special keyword “all”, then RMS will create one command for the step (covering “all” of the spreadsheet data). If a name-value line was defined in the header of the script, that can also be used as a column(s) value, so if this was in the script header:

#kmer=( 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 )

then a column(s) value of “Sample,kmer” will create one command for each pair of samples and kmers.

As part of this computation, the rows of the input spreadsheet data are partitioned into the sets of rows for each distinct set of values found (i.e., each command generated for the step will use the spreadsheet rows that contain those specific column(s) values). These rows are what will be used when performing the replacement of the template elements in the body of the step (see below).

Step Options

The step option lines are used to tell RMS what resources (cores, memory, tmp space) will be used during the computation of the step commands, as well as telling RMS about the step language and parallelism/recovery.

There are four resource option lines, each of takes a number as its value (except for ##tmp, which may also take a path, see Writing RMS Scripts - Details). They are the following:

##ppn=5       [number of cores, default 1]
##io=3        [i/o concurrency limit, default no limit]
##mem=40      [main memory limit in GB, default 10]
##tmp=60      [tmp space limit in GB, default 10]

These are not hard limits, but help RMS run the commands on the compute nodes quickly and safely (too high a cpu load or too much I/O will slow your computation down significantly, using too much memory on a compute node has been the cause of nearly every “mysterious” crash of a cluster job, in my experience, and running out of disk space is usually an unrecoverable error…so making an effort to avoid these issues will make your script faster and more robust).

The ##io limit restricts how many commands from the step can run at the same time on the same compute node, in order to avoid thrashing on the I/O channel (as the compute node tries to satisfy all of the reads and write the commands are making). To get a sense of the problem, try running the following the script with and without the ##io line on a compute node (where you can substitute the samtools sort command for a command you know is heavily I/O bound), making sure you are running at least as many commands as cores on the compute node, i.e., like “rms -s sort.rms *.bam”:

#### sort bam
samtools sort <bam> > <bam>.sorted.bam

Particularly with nodes that have 10-20 cores, the running time without the ##io line should be much longer than with (as the overall execution keeps within the capability of the compute node’s and the NFS I/O hardware, so that the file contents can be served up efficiently).

The other option lines commonly used are the lines defining the language for the step:

##python, ##perl, ##R or ##bash

as well as two option lines, ##after and ##redo, that allow for step parallelism and error recovery. The “##after=…” takes a comma-separated list of step names (these steps must be defined earlier in the RMS script), and tells RMS that this step can execute immediately after those steps complete, instead of when the previous step in the script completes. For example, the “scatter-gather” pattern can use step parallelism with a script as follows:

#### step1 sample

#### step2 sample,file

#### step3 sample,file

#### step4 sample

(Note that this script performs both step parallelism, using the ##after option, and data parallelism, using “sample,file” column-based parallelism for step2 and step3.)

The ##redo option line takes a value which is the number of times the command should be restarted afte an error, along with an optional command to run when restarting the command (i.e., to clean up temp files or reset necessary files/values):

##redo=2;rm -f <sample>/tmp_*.bam

RMS will restart any step command that failed to complete (i.e., returned a non-zero exit status). If the command fails the given number of times, the command will be considered as failed.

Step Lines

The remaining lines of the step Step lines, with template elements and rms commands (rmssync, rmscp, rmslock).

<column> <column,glob=True>