Troubleshooting - when Grid does not do what you want it to do

Sometimes, running jobs does not go as smoothly as you would like it to go. In this section, we will cover some basic troubleshooting.

First off all: be informed!

Grid operations are complex. Often, job failures are a result of mistakes of users, but sometimes, certain Grid sites experience general problems. To quickly resolve these problems, it is important that we clearly communicate problems. To do so, ALICE makes extensive use of mailing lists. You can self-subscribe to mailing lists pertaining to Grid operations by surfing to . There, make sure that you are subscribed to

  • alice-analysis-operations
  • alice-project-analysis-task-force
  • your PAG’s mailing list

ALICE also employes a more professional bug and feature tracking suite, called JIRA, which you can access via

Troubleshooting 101 - what should you do?

Sometimes, you will see mails such as

            `Dear experts,
        All my jobs are going into error. 
            Could you check? Thanks!'

being sent to the mailing lists. The experts can (and probably will) check, but you yourself should be the first to take a look at why your job is not doing what you want it to do. The starting point is

  • Go to ‘my jobs’ on MonaLISA
  • Take a look at the job trace and, if available, the stderr and stdout

The trace tells you exactly how your job was handled, from copying of files to Grid nodes, to executing the job, to checking if the expected output files were actually created. Stdout and stderr are the standard handles for the normal information and error information. Depending on whether or not the process actually ran, these files may or may not be available.

If you have checked your job's trace, stdout and stderr, and still cannot solve an issue, it is completely fine to write a mail to the mailing list. However, be complete in your message, specify what goes wrong, and provide some examples of job numbers. Do not kill your jobs! If the jobs are purged from the queue, debug information is lost.

Example: validation error

Let's take a look at an example of troubleshooting. We have some jobs running, and check their progress on MonALISA. Unfortunately, we see that all of our subjobs, corresponding to a given masterjob, go into the error state 'Validation error' image

The first thing to do, is click on the masterjob number, to get a detailed overview of the subjobs. This table allows us access to the trace and log files image

Clicking on 'log files' leads us to a page where we can consult the log files image

and by e.g. clicking on the 'stderr', we can check the error information of our job. image

Mmm, so the job crashed with a segmentation violation, and if we remember correctly from our programming classes, we know that this points at illegal memory access ... so we had better go to our analysis code, and check our pointers ....

Can you spot the mistake?

Below, we see the UserCreateOutputObjects and a snippet of the UserExec() methods of the task that ran and segfaulted. What is wrong ?

        // create a new TList that OWNS its objects
        fOutputList = new TList();
        // add the list to our output file
    AliAnalysisTaskMyTask::UserExec() {
       // called for each event

Click to show answerClick to expand

Example: execution error

Let's take a look at another example. We are again running our jobs, but now we notice that subjobs of a given masterjob start to go into an 'Execution error' state.


Again, after clicking on the masterjob ID, the popup window of subjobs opens. If we hover with the mouse over the ID of a certain subjob, an graph of memory usage over time is shown. In this particular case, we clearly see that memory usage increases linearly over time


Let's click on the trace of the subjob image

From the trace, we see that the job was killed because it used too much memory. The fact that we saw that the memory consumption increased linearly over time, probably means that there is a memory leak somewhere in our code ... better go back to the drawing board.

What is the perfect workflow?

By now, we have seen that we can run our analysis

  • locally, on some data on our laptop
  • on Grid, either in test mode or full mode
  • on the LEGO trains

Even though there is no perfect workflow, it is generally wise to

  • Download some AliAOD.root files to your computer
  • Develop your task
  • Test locally (fast, no internet connection needed)

When this goes well

  • Check in ‘test’ grid mode. There are a few subtle differences between running LOCALLY and on GRID (covered in the next section)

If the code is robust:

  • Don’t spend long nights (re)submitting jobs to GRID ...
  • ... rather get your code checked into AliPhysics
  • And use the LEGO trains

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