Projects and accounting

What is quota and why is it needed?

Our compute clusters are shared and limited resources and therefore we divide the available compute resources in quotas and we specify compute quota in “billing units”. You can think of a billing unit as something that corresponds to for how long one processing core could be used. For example, if your project received 100 billing units you could use one processing core for 100 hours. You could also use 10 processing cores for 10 hours or 20 processing cores for 5 hours or …

TL;DR - how to use billing units well

How billing units are computed is described below but here is what this means for you:

This is important

  • Do not ask for a lot more memory than you need, otherwise you can get billed for a lot more than you use, and your jobs may queue for a lot longer than you would like to. In addition this can also block resources for others.

  • You get billed for the resources you asked for, not what you used, with one exception: time. Slurm cannot know how long your job will take. If you ask for 5 days but only use 2 hours, it will subtract “5 days worth of billing units” from your project/account once your job starts. 2 hours later, it will return to you the unused quota once your job ends. This means that if you ask for a lot more time than you actually need, you and your project colleagues may not be able to get other jobs scheduled in the meantime since Slurm will not let you overspend your quota.


All jobs are run in a project or account (the Slurm queue system calls projects accounts) and the account is something we always specify in our job scripts to select which project the job should be “billed” in:

#!/bin/bash -l

# account name
#SBATCH --account=nnABCDk

# max running time in d-hh:mm:ss
# this helps the scheduler to assess priorities and tasks
#SBATCH --time=0-00:05:00

# ... rest of the job script

Each project has a CPU hour quota, and when a job runs, CPU hours are subtracted from the project quota. If there is not enough hours left on the quota, the job will be left pending with a reason AssocGrpBillingMinutes.

To see which projects you have access to on a cluster, run (the list of your projects will differ):

$ projects


How to list available quota

The command cost gives an overview of the CPU hour quota. It can be run in different ways:

Show quota information for all projects you have access to:

$ cost

Show quota information for a project:

$ cost -p YourProject

Get information about how much each user has run:

$ cost --details

See cost --man for other options, and explanation of the output. The cost command only shows usage in the current allocation period. Historical usage can be found here.

How billing units are computed

The term “CPU hour” above is an over-simplification. Jobs are generally accounted for both CPU and memory usage, as well as usage of GPUs. The accounting tries to assign a fair “price” to the amount of resources a job requested.

Currently, jobs on Fram are only accounted for their CPU usage, but this will change soon.

Accounting is done in terms of billing units, and the quota is in billing unit hours. Each job is assigned a number of billing units based on the requested CPUs, memory and GPUs. The number that is subtracted from the quota is the number of billing units multiplied with the (actual) wall time of the job.

The number billing units of a job is calculated like this:

  1. Each requested CPU is given a cost of 1.

  2. The requested memory is given a cost based on a memory cost factor (see below).

  3. Each requested GPU is given a cost based on a GPU cost factor (see below).

  4. The number of billing units is the maximum of the CPU cost, memory cost and GPU cost.

The memory cost factor and GPU cost factor vary between the partitions on the clusters.


  • The normal partition: memory factor is 0.2577031 units per GiB. Thus the memory cost of a job asking for all memory on a node will be 46. This is a compromise between the two node types in the normal partition; they have 40 and 52 CPUs.

  • For the bigmem partition, the factor is 0.1104972 units per GiB. This means that for a job requesting all memory on one of the “small” bigmem nodes, the memory cost is 40, while for a job requesting all memory on one of the large nodes, it is 320.

  • On the accel partition, the memory factor is 0.06593407 units per GiB, and the GPU factor is 6. This means that a job asking for all memory on a node, or all GPUs on a node, gets a cost of 24, the number of CPUs on the node.

  • The optimist partition has the same memory factor as the normal partition.


  • In the normal partition, only whole nodes are handed out, so each job is accounted for 128 units per node, and there is no memory factor.

  • The preproc partition has a memory factor of 0.5245902 units per GiB, so a job asking for all memory on the node would have a cost of 128, the number of CPUs on the node.

  • The accel partition has a memory factor of 0.1294237 units per GiB, while the GPU factor is 16 units per GPU. This means that when one reserves 1 GPU on Betzy the billing is equivalent to reserving 16 CPU cores.

Finding out how many billing units your job consumes

This only works for running and pending jobs. Here is an example (43 billing units):

$ scontrol show job 123456

JobId=123456 JobName=example
   UserId=... GroupId=... MCS_label=N/A
   Priority=19760 Nice=0 Account=nnABCDk QOS=nnABCDk
   JobState=RUNNING Reason=None Dependency=(null)
   Requeue=1 Restarts=0 BatchFlag=1 Reboot=0 ExitCode=0:0
   RunTime=5-00:08:56 TimeLimit=7-00:00:00 TimeMin=N/A
   SubmitTime=2022-10-03T13:43:14 EligibleTime=2022-10-03T13:43:14
   StartTime=2022-10-03T13:43:14 EndTime=2022-10-10T13:43:14 Deadline=N/A
   PreemptEligibleTime=2022-10-03T13:43:14 PreemptTime=None
   SuspendTime=None SecsPreSuspend=0 LastSchedEval=2022-10-03T13:43:14 Scheduler=Main
   Partition=normal AllocNode:Sid=login-2:23457
   ReqNodeList=(null) ExcNodeList=(null)
   NumNodes=1 NumCPUs=40 NumTasks=1 CPUs/Task=40 ReqB:S:C:T=0:0:*:*
   Socks/Node=* NtasksPerN:B:S:C=1:0:*:* CoreSpec=*
   MinCPUsNode=40 MinMemoryNode=172000M MinTmpDiskNode=0
   Features=(null) DelayBoot=00:00:00
   OverSubscribe=OK Contiguous=0 Licenses=(null) Network=(null)

How do I get compute and storage quota?

The process is described here: Applying for computing and storage. If you are unsure about how much to ask for and on which cluster, do not hesitate to contact us.

If you exhaust your quota and need more, the project manager can apply for additional quota.

For how long can I use the compute quota?

Compute quota is always handed out for an allocation period. Allocation periods run for six months (from April 1 to September 30, or October 1 to March 31). Unused compute quota is not transferred to the next allocation period. The project manager has to ask for new compute quota for every allocation period.

If you need a small allocation to experiment, you don’t need to wait until April or October, but can also apply in-between (contact).