Input and output data

If your simulation, data analysis or other computation consumes and/or produces data, Sumatra will try to track them for you.

Sumatra does not, by default, make copies of your files, although this is an option. Rather, it stores the location of the data (e.g. the filesystem path) and, importantly, the SHA-1 hash of the file contents. This hash can later be used to check that the datafiles have not been corrupted or over-written.


in its underlying design, Sumatra is agnostic as to how and where data files are stored. At the moment, however, Sumatra assumes that data are stored in files (rather than in a relational database, for example), that input files are available on your local file system, and that output files will be written to the local file system. If this does not fit with your current workflow, please contact the developers.

Telling Sumatra about your input data files

Sumatra currently handles two cases:

  • your script or executable reads data from standard input (stdin);
  • the names of the input data files are given in the command-line invocation of your program.

If your workflow is different, e.g. if the filenames are hard-coded or provided in a parameter/configuration file, Sumatra will not at present track the files: please contact the developers if you need this functionality.

Reading data from stdin

If your usual invocation is something like:

$ myprog < mydata.dat

Then to run and track this with Sumatra, use:

$ smt run -e myprog -i mydata.dat

Reading data from files

If you normally launch computations with something like:

$ python config_file data_file1 data_file2

Then with Sumatra, run:

$ smt configure -e python -m
$ smt run config_file data_file1 data_file2

If your parameter/configuration file is in a format Sumatra recognizes, it will be treated specially (see Parameter files). Otherwise, it will be treated in the same way as the data files.

Specifying relative paths

By default, Sumatra will store the full path of input data files. If you would prefer to store the path relative to your working directory or some other directory (this is useful if running computations for the same project on multiple computers, or if you need to relocate your project directory), you can specify this as follows:

$ smt configure --input .   # relative to working directory

Telling Sumatra where to find your output data files

Sumatra will try to automatically detect any new data files created by your simulation or analysis script. To avoid the overhead of having to monitor the entire file system, you need to give Sumatra the path of a directory to monitor. By default, Sumatra will look in a subdirectory “Data” of the working directory, but this is rarely a very useful default, so you will usually want to configure it yourself:

$ smt configure --datapath /path/to/data

Keeping a copy of output data

In general, it is up to you and your scripts/programs to manage your output data files, for example including the date and time in each output filename to ensure it is unique and doesn’t get over-written, making backups, etc.

However, Sumatra does have an option to automatically make an archive copy of your output data, relieving you of the need to do so. To activate this, you need to choose a base directory in which to store your archives, e.g.:

$ smt configure --archive ./archive

For each computation, Sumatra will then create a compressed tar archive of all your output data files, label it with the date and time, and store it in the archive directory. This is particularly useful if your program always uses the same output filename (such as “output.dat”) as it avoids accidental over-writing.

Dropbox, and other data-mirrors

If you are collaborating with others, or if you wish to disseminate your results publicly (for example, in conjunction with the Sumatra Server remote record store) then you need to put your results online where they are accessible, and still let Sumatra know where to find them.

Sumatra does not take care of putting your data online, this is up to you, but if there is a simple mapping between the local filesystem path and the online URL (e.g. using Dropbox with a public folder), you can tell Sumatra about it using the mirror option, e.g.:

$ smt configure --mirror

You will have to figure out what “xyzxyz” should be for your own public folder.

Running multiple computations at the same time

Sumatra infers which files have been created by your computation by taking a snapshot of the designated output directory immediately before launching your computation and then determining what has changed once the computation is finished. This means that if you have multiple processes writing to the same directory, Sumatra will get confused about which files were created by which process.

A workaround is to ensure that each computation writes to a different directory, and then use smt configure --datapath immediately before each run to tell Sumatra which directory to look in.

A more streamlined version of this workflow is to use the --addlabel option to have Sumatra automatically add the label/id of the computation to either the command line or the parameter file. It is then up to your script or program to read this label and use it as the subdirectory within which to write data. Sumatra will then look only in that directory for output data. This is simpler than it sounds. Suppose I have a Python script “” which reads a data file, does some calculations and then writes data to a file “mydata/output.csv”:

filename = os.path.join("mydata", "output.csv")
with open(filename, "wb") as fp:

Sumatra is configured as follows:

$ smt configure --datapath=mydata --addlabel=cmdline --executable=python

The script should be modified as follows:

label = sys.argv[-1]   # Sumatra appends the label to the command line
subdir = os.path.join("mydata", label)
filename = os.path.join(subdir, "output.csv")
with open(filename, "wb") as fp:

Now we can run the script many times in parallel, e.g.:

$ for input_file in *.dat; do smt run $input_file & done

Each run will be given a separate, unique label by Sumatra (by default, based on the current date and time); the Python script reads this label from the command line and uses it to create a unique subdirectory into which it saves the output data; Sumatra knows to look only in this directory for files associated with the given run, so there is no chance of mixing up data from different runs.

Writing data to stdout

If you program writes data to standard output, i.e. you would normally run it using:

$ myprog > output.txt

Then you can tell Sumatra to run it the same way, but in addition to track the output file, using:

$ smt run -o output.txt