Parallel and Distributed Sampling


The pyABC package offers a variety of different parallel and distributed sampling strategies. Single-core, multi-core and distributed execution is supported in a couple different ways. The ParticleParallel samplers and the MappingSampler implement the “Static Scheduling (STAT)” strategy. The EvalParallel samplers, the DaskDistributedSampler and the ConcurrentFutureSampler implement the “DynamicScheduling (DYN)” strategy. The batchsize argument of the DaskDistributedSampler and the ConcurrentFutureSampler allow to interpolate between dynamic and static scheduling.

Single-core execution

For single-core execution, pyABC offers the pyabc.sampler.SingleCoreSampler. This one just generates sample by sample sequentially. This sampler is intended for debugging purposes as debugging parallel code can be hard sometimes.

Multi-core only samplers

For multi-core execution, pyABC implements two possible parallelization strategies.

Both samplers are highly specialized to the multi-core setting and have very little communication overhead. Even for very small model evaluation times these samplers are about as fast as the single core sampler. This is achieved circumventing object serialization by forking. As Microsoft Windows does not support forking, these samplers might not work as expected on Windows.

Distributed samplers

The distributed samplers can, be used in a distributed setting, and of course also locally by setting up a local cluster. However, for local execution, the multi-core samplers are recommended as they are easier to set up.

The pyabc.sampler.RedisEvalParallelSampler has very low communication overhead, and when running workers and redis-server locally is actually competitive with the mutli-core only samplers. The pyabc.sampler.RedisEvalParallelSampler performs parameter sampling on a per worker basis, and can handle fast function evaluations efficiently.

The pyabc.sampler.DaskDistributedSampler has slightly higher communication overhead, however this can be compensated with the batch submission mode. As the pyabc.sampler.DaskDistributedSampler performs parameter sampling locally on the master, it is unsuitable for simulation functions with a runtime below 100ms, as network communication becomes prohibitive at this point.

The Redis based sampler cab require slightly more effort in setting up than the Dask based sampler, but has fewer constraints regarding simulation function runtime. The Dask sampler is in turn better suited to handle worker failures and unexpected execution host terminations.

General extensible samplers

Moreover, there are two more generic samplers which can be used in a multicore and distributed fashion. These samplers facilitate adaptation of pyABC to new parallel environments.

The pyabc.sampler.MappingSampler can be used in a multi-core context if the provided map implementation is a multi-core one, such as, e.g., or distributed if the map is a distributed one, such as

Similarly, the pyabc.sampler.ConcurrentFutureSampler can use any implementation of the python concurrent.futures.Executor interface. Again, implementations are available for both multi-core (e.g. concurrent.futures.ProcessPoolExecutor) and distributed (e.g. Dask) environments

Check the API documentation for more details.

How to setup a Redis based distributed cluster

Step 1: Start a Redis server without password authentication

Start one some machine, which is reachable by the machine running the pyABC main application and by the workers, a Redis server, disabling password authentication:

redis-server --protected-mode no

You should get an output looking similar to the one below:

30656:M 23 May 13:19:20.718 # You requested maxclients of 10000 requiring at least 10032 max file descriptors.
30656:M 23 May 13:19:20.718 # Server can't set maximum open files to 10032 because of OS error: Operation not permitted.
30656:M 23 May 13:19:20.718 # Current maximum open files is 4096. maxclients has been reduced to 4064 to compensate for low ulimit. If you need higher maxclients increase 'ulimit -n'.
           _.-``__ ''-._
      _.-``    `.  `_.  ''-._           Redis 3.2.9 (00000000/0) 64 bit
  .-`` .-```.  ```\/    _.,_ ''-._
 (    '      ,       .-`  | `,    )     Running in standalone mode
 |`-._`-...-` __...-.``-._|'` _.-'|     Port: 6379
 |    `-._   `._    /     _.-'    |     PID: 30656
  `-._    `-._  `-./  _.-'    _.-'
 |`-._`-._    `-.__.-'    _.-'_.-'|
 |    `-._`-._        _.-'_.-'    | 
  `-._    `-._`-.__.-'_.-'    _.-'
 |`-._`-._    `-.__.-'    _.-'_.-'|
 |    `-._`-._        _.-'_.-'    |
  `-._    `-._`-.__.-'_.-'    _.-'
      `-._    `-.__.-'    _.-'
          `-._        _.-'

30656:M 23 May 13:19:20.719 # WARNING: The TCP backlog setting of 511 cannot be enforced because /proc/sys/net/core/somaxconn is set to the lower value of 128.
30656:M 23 May 13:19:20.719 # Server started, Redis version 3.2.9
30656:M 23 May 13:19:20.719 # WARNING overcommit_memory is set to 0! Background save may fail under low memory condition. To fix this issue add 'vm.overcommit_memory = 1' to /etc/sysctl.conf and then reboot or run the command 'sysctl vm.overcommit_memory=1' for this to take effect.
30656:M 23 May 13:19:20.719 # WARNING you have Transparent Huge Pages (THP) support enabled in your kernel. This will create latency and memory usage issues with Redis. To fix this issue run the command 'echo never > /sys/kernel/mm/transparent_hugepage/enabled' as root, and add it to your /etc/rc.local in order to retain the setting after a reboot. Redis must be restarted after THP is disabled.
30656:M 23 May 13:19:20.719 * The server is now ready to accept connections on port 6379

If you’re on Linux, you can install redis either via your package manager of if you’re using anaconda via

conda install redis

At this point, Windows is not officially supported by the Redis developers. We assume for now, that the IP address of the machine running the Redis server is

Step 2 or 3: Start pyABC

It does not matter what you do first: starting pyABC or starting the workers. Assuming the models, priors and the distance function are defined, configure pyABC to use the Redis sampler

from pyabc.sampler import RedisEvalParallelSampler

redis_sampler = RedisEvalParallelSampler(host="")

abc = pyabc.ABCSMC(models, priors, distance, sampler=redis_sampler)

Note that is the IP address of the machine running the Redis server. Then start the ABC-SMC run as usual with

passing the stopping conditions.

Step 2 or 3: Start the workers

It does not matter what you do first: starting pyABC or starting the workers. You can even dynamically add workers after the sampling has started. Start as many workers as you whish on the machines you whish. Up to 10,000 workers should not pose any problem if the model evaluation times are on the second scale or longer.

abc-redis-worker --host=

Again, is the IP address of the machine running the Redis server. You should get an output similar to

INFO:REDIS-WORKER:Start redis worker. Max run time 7200.0s, PID=2731

Note that the abc-redis-worker command also has options to set the maximal runtime of a worker, e.g. --runtime=2h, --runtime=3600s, --runtime=2d, to start a worker running for 2 hours, 3600 seconds or 2 days. The default is 2 hours. It is OK if a worker stops during the sampling of a generation. You can add new workers during the sampling process. The abc-redis-worker command also has an option --processes which allows you to start several worker procecces in parallel. This might be handy in situations where you have to use a whole cluster node with several cores.

Optional: Monitoring

pyABC ships with a small utility to manage the Redis based sampler setup. To monitor the ongoing sampling, execute

abc-redis-manager info --host=

again, assuming is the IP of the Redis server. If no sampling has happened yet, the output should look like

Workers=None Evaluations=None Particles=None

The keys are to be read as follows:

  • Workers: Currently sampling workers. This will show None or zero, even if workers are connected but they are not running. This number drops to zero at the end of a generation.
  • Evaluations: Number of accumulated model evaluations for the current generations. This is a sum across all workers.
  • Particles: Number of particles which remain to be accepted. This number decreases over the course of a population and reaches 0 (or a negative number due to excess sampling) at the end of a population. At the very start, this is just the population size.

Optional: Stopping workers

Use abc-redis-manager stop to send a signal to the workers that they should shutdown at the end of the current generation.

You can also stop workers with Ctrl-C, or even send a kill signal when pyABC has finished.

Optional: Something with the workers went wrong in the middle of a run

It can happen, that workers get unexpectedly killed. If they are not able to communicate to the redis-server that they’ve finished working on the current population before they’re killed, the pyABC master process will wait forever. In such cases, the following can be done

  1. Terminate all running workers (but not the pyABC master process and also not the redis-server)
  2. Execute abc-redis-manager reset-workers to manually reset the number of registered workers to zero.
  3. Start worker processes again.