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Using software modules

 Copyright (c) 2013-2020 UL HPC Team <>

This page is part of the Getting started tutorial.

Environment Modules is a software package that allows us to provide a multitude of applications and libraries in multiple versions on the UL HPC platform. The tool itself is used to manage environment variables such as PATH, LD_LIBRARY_PATH and MANPATH, enabling the easy loading and unloading of application/library profiles and their dependencies.

We will have multiple occasion to use modules in the other tutorials so there is nothing special we foresee here. You are just encouraged to read the following resources:


By loading appropriate environment modules, the user can select:

  • compilers,
  • libraries, e.g. the MPI library, or
  • other third party software packages.

An exhaustive list of the available software is proposed in this page.

On a node, using an interactive jobs, you can:

  • list all available softwares: module avail
  • search for one software: module spider <search terms>
  • "load" a software in your environment: module load <category>/<software>[/<version>]
  • list the currently loaded modules: module list
  • clean your environment, unload everything: module purge

Software sets

Currently, the ULHPC provides the software sets 2019a (default) and 2019b (devel). We encourage you to use right now 2019b, by redefining the MODULEPATH variable as explained in the next section, as it will soon be promoted as the next default environment.

The ULHPC team updates the software set every year based on the Easybuild releases.

Name Type 2019a (prod) 2019b (devel) 2020a (next)
GCCCore compiler 8.2.0 8.3.0 9.3.0
foss toolchain 2019a 2019b 2020a
intel toolchain 2019a 2019b 2020a
Python 3.7.2 (and 2.7.15) 3.7.4 (and 2.7.16) 3.8.2

Each environment provides different versions of softwares. The core of the software environment is the toolchain, a toolchain is a set of tools used to compile and run of the other programs of the software environment.

The ULHPC team provides two toolchain:

  • foss : based on open source software (GCC, binutils, OpenMPI, OpenBLAS, FFTW)
  • intel: based on the proprietary Intel compiler suite.

$MODULEPATH environment variable

The environment variable $MODULEPATH contains the path of the directory containing the modules. You can use this variable to change your software environment.

In the following command, we use the new environment, which will be officially released very soon.

export MODULEPATH=/opt/apps/resif/iris/2019b/broadwell/modules/all

For backward compatibility reasons and for reproducibility, it is always possible to load the older environments.


Choose one or two languages below, and try to run the hello world program on a compute node.


  1. Create a file named fibonacci.m in your home directory, copy-paste the following code in this file. This code will calculate the first N numbers of the Fibonacci sequence

    while k <= N
  2. Create a new interactive job

  3. Look for the matlab module using the command module spider

  4. Load the module base/MATLAB using the command module load

  5. Execute the code using matlab

    (node)$> matlab -nojvm -nodisplay -nosplash < path/to/fibonacci.m


  1. Create a file named fibonacci.R in your home directory, copy-paste the following code in this file. This code will calculate the first N numbers of the Fibonacci sequence

    N <- 130
    fibvals <- numeric(N)
    fibvals[1] <- 1
    fibvals[2] <- 1
    for (i in 3:N) {
         fibvals[i] <- fibvals[i-1]+fibvals[i-2]
         print( fibvals[i], digits=22)
  2. Create a new interactive job

  3. Look for the R module using the command module spider

  4. Load the module lang/R using the command module load

  5. Execute the code using R

    (node)$> Rscript path/to/fibonacci.R


Create a new file called helloworld.c, containing the source code of a simple "Hello World" program written in C.


    int main()
        printf("Hello, world!");
        return 0;

First, compile the program using the "FOSS" toolchain, containing the GNU C compiler

    (node)$> module load toolchain/foss
    (node)$> gcc helloworld.c -o helloworld

Then, compile the program using the Intel toolchain, containing the ICC compiler

    (node)$> module purge
    (node)$> module load toolchain/intel
    (node)$> icc helloworld.c -o helloworld

If you use Intel CPUs and ICC is available on the platform, it is advised to use ICC in order to produce optimized binaries and achieve better performance.


Question: create a new file helloworld.cpp containing the following C++ source code, compile the following program, using GNU C++ compiler (g++ command), and the Intel compiler (icpc command).

    #include <iostream>

    int main() {
        std::cout << "Hello, world!" << std::endl;


Question: create a new file helloworld.f containing the following source code, compile the following program, using the GNU Fortran compiler (gfortran command), and ICC (ifortran command).

    program hello
       print *, "Hello, World!"
    end program hello

Be careful, the 6 spaces at the beginning of each line are required


MPI is a programming interface that enables the communication between processes of a distributed memory system.

We will create a simple MPI program where the MPI process of rank 0 broadcasts an integer (42) to all the other processes. Then, each process prints its rank, the total number of processes and the value he received from the process 0.

In your home directory, create a file mpi_broadcast.c and copy the following source code:

    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <mpi.h>
    #include <unistd.h>
    #include <time.h> /* for the work function only */

    int main (int argc, char *argv []) {
           char hostname[257];
           int size, rank;
           int i, pid;
           int bcast_value = 1;

           gethostname(hostname, sizeof hostname);
           MPI_Init(&argc, &argv);
           MPI_Comm_rank(MPI_COMM_WORLD, &rank);
           MPI_Comm_size(MPI_COMM_WORLD, &size);
           if (!rank) {
                bcast_value = 42;
           MPI_Bcast(&bcast_value,1 ,MPI_INT, 0, MPI_COMM_WORLD );
           printf("%s\t- %d - %d - %d\n", hostname, rank, size, bcast_value);

           return 0;

Reserve 2 tasks of 1 core on two distinct nodes with Slurm

    (access-iris)$> si --time 1:00:0 -N 2 -n 2 -c 1

Load a toolchain and compile the code using mpicc

    (node)$> mpicc mpi_broadcast.c -o mpi_broadcast -lpthread

With Slurm, you can use the srun command. Create an interactive job, with 2 nodes (-N 2), and at least 2 tasks (-n 2).

    (node)$> srun -n $SLURM_NTASKS ~/mpi_broadcast