Using YADE with cloud computing on Amazon EC2

(Note: we thank Robert Caulk for preparing and sharing this guide)


This guide is intended to help YADE users migrate their simulations to Amazon Web Service (AWS) EC2. Two of the most notable benefits of using scalable cloud computing for YADE include decreased upfront cost and increased productivity. The entire process, from launching an instance, to installing YADE, to running a YADE simulation on the cloud can be executed in under 5 minutes. Once the EC2 instance is running, you can submit YADE scripts the same way you would submit jobs on a local workstation.

Launching an EC2 instance


Amazon Web Services (AWS) Console

Start by signing into the console on Amazon EC2. This will require an existing or new Amazon account. Once you’ve signed in, you should find the EC2 console by clicking on ‘services’ in the upper left hand corner of the AWS homepage. Start by clicking on the launch an instance blue button (Fig. fig-console). Select the Amazon Machine Image (AMI): Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS (Fig. fig-ubuntu).


Select Ubuntu server 16.04 LTS AMI

You will now select the instance type. It is worth looking at the specifications for each of the instances so you can properly select the power you need for you YADE simulation. This document will not go into detail in the selection of size, but you can find plenty of YADE specific performance reports that will help you decide. However, the instance type is an important selection. The Compute Optimized instances are necessary for most YADE simulations because they provide access to high performing processors and guaranteed computing power. The C3.2xlarge (Fig. fig-type) is equivalent to an 8 core 2.8ghz Xeon E5 with 25 mb of cache, which is likely the best option for medium-large scale YADE simulations.


Compute optimized (C3) instance tier

Before launching, you will be asked to select an existing key pair or create a new key pair. Create a new one, download it, and place it in a folder that you know the path to. Modify the permissions on the file by navigating to the same directory in the terminal and typing:

chmod 400 KeyPair.pem

Now the instance is launched, you will need to connect to it via SSH. On unix systems this is as easy as typing:

ssh -i path/to/KeyPair.pem

into the terminal. There are other options such as using PuTTY, or even a java based terminal on the AWS website. You can find the necessary information by navigating to Instances in the left menu of the AWS console. Right click on the instance as shown in Fig. fig-connect and click connect.


Connecting to the instance

You will be presented with the public DNS, which should look something like Fig. fig-dns.


Public DNS

Installing YADE and managing files

After you’ve connected to the instance through SSH, you will need to install YADE. The following commands should be issued to install yadedaily, python, and some other useful tools:

#install yadedaily
sudo bash -c 'echo "deb xenial/" >> /etc/apt/sources.list'
wget -O - | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y yadedaily

# install python
sudo apt-get -y install python
sudo apt-get -y install python-pip python-dev build-essential

# install htop
sudo apt-get -y install htop

Note that ..packages/ xenial/ should match the Ubuntu distribution. 16.04 LTS is Xenial, but if you chose to start Ubuntu 14.04, you will need to change ‘xenial’ to ‘trusty’.

Finally, you will need to upload the necessary YADE files. If you have a folder with the contents of your simulation titled yadeSimulation you can upload the folder and its contents by issuing the following command:

scp -r -i path/to/KeyYADEbox.pem path/to/yadeSimulation

You should now be able to run your simulation by changing to the proper directory and typing:


In order to retrieve the output files (folder titled ‘out’ below) for post processing purposes, you will use the same command that you used to upload the folder, but the remote and local file destinations should be reversed:

scp -r -i path/to/KeyYADEbox.pem path/to/yadeSimulation/out

Plotting output in the terminal

One of the main issues encountered with cloud computing is the lack of graphical feedback. There is an easy solution for graphically checking the status of your simulations which makes use of gnuplot’s wonderful ‘terminal dumb’ feature. Any data can be easily plotted by navigating to the subfolder where the simulation is saving its output and typing:

set terminal dumb
plot ``data.txt" using 1:2 with lines

Where ‘1:2’ refers to the columns in data.txt that you wish to plot against one another. Your output should look something like this:


Gnuplot output


  • Amazon AWS allows you to stop your instance and restart it again later with the same files and package installations. If you wish to create several instances that all contain the same installation and file directory you can create a snapshot of your default image which you will be able to use to create various volumes that you can attach to new instances. These actions are all performed very easily and graphically through the EC2 console
  • You can use Spot Instances, which are a special type of instance that allow you to bid on unused servers. The price is heavily discounted and worth looking into for any YADE user that wishes to run hundreds of hours of simulations.
  • For most simulations, your computational efficiency will decrease if you use above 8 cores per simulation. It is preferable to use yadedaily-batch to distribute your cores accordingly so that you always dedicate 8 cores to each simulation and ensure 100% of the processor is running.
  • Create a tmux session to avoid ending YADE simulations upon disconnecting from the server.
tmux  # starts a new session
tmux attach -t 0  # attach session 0
tmux kill -t 0  # kill session
## cntrl - b - d to move back to home
## cntrl - b - [ to navigate within the session