Skip to content

Argonne Leadership Computing Facility

Spack PE

Spack is an HPC-oriented package manager which ALCF uses to install software for the user environment.

ALCF's Spack PE is a Spack-managed software stack which provides various build tools, utilities, and libraries. It consists of a base stack (spack-pe-base) and PrgEnv-dependent stacks (currently spack-pe-gnu).

spack-pe-base contains commonplace software compiled for CPU with the system GCC compilers. Accordingly, the software in spack-pe-base can be used regardless of programming environment.

spack-pe-gnu is based on the E4S Project and provides performant HPC libraries built with PrgEnv-gnu and the nvcc CUDA compiler driver for GPU code. spack-pe-gnu is dependent on both spack-pe-base and PrgEnv-gnu.

Using software from the Spack PE

The base suite of software tools and libraries can be accessed by loading the spack-pe-base module. This adds a path to $MODULEPATH which contains numerous modules.

For example, to load cmake starting from the default environment, a user should run the following commands:

module use /soft/modulefiles
module load spack-pe-base
module load cmake

The spack-pe-base module adds paths to the user's MODULEPATH; individual packages are subsequently loaded through the newly available modules. The full list of available packages can be viewed by running module avail or module --show-hidden avail for a complete listing. Packages are loaded in the same way from spack-pe-gnu.

Inspecting packages

When a module in the Spack PE is loaded, several environment variables are updated to integrate the package into the user's environment. Additionally, the PACKAGE_ROOT variable is set to the path to the installation prefix of the package. For example, after loading cmake as above:

$ echo $CMAKE_ROOT
$ ls -a $CMAKE_ROOT
.  ..  bin  doc  share  .spack

This variable can be used to inspect software installations and find header or library paths. Additionally, Spack packages have a .spack directory in the installation prefix which contains build information and logs.

Building software with Spack

Spack is a powerful package manager designed for HPC. The Spack PE is installed and managed with Spack; users can also install Spack in their own home or project directory to manage their software builds. Spack has a steep learning curve, but it may benefit workflows involving frequent builds with complex dependencies.

For users who wish to use Spack to install their own software, we provide configuration files corresponding to the Spack PE deployments. These configuration files can be found in config directories in /soft/spack within the respective Spack PE installation directories. For example, the spack-pe-base/0.6.1 configurations are in /soft/spack/gcc/0.6.1/config. Not all of these settings will be useful for all builds and it is not recommended to adopt these wholesale as global settings. The recommended method is to include these settings ad hoc in a spack environment to control what information spack uses for its builds.

Support requests and feedback should be directed to [email protected]. For general Spack questions, users are encouraged to consult the following resources: