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Run method options

The function is the core of pypiper. In its simplest case, all you need to provide is a command to run, but it can be much more powerful with additional arguments.

The cmd argument

Normally you just pass a string, but you can also pass a list of commands to run, like this:[cmd1, cmd2, cmd3])

Pypiper will treat these commands as a group, running each one in turn (and monitoring them individually for time and memory use). The difference in doing it this way, rather than 3 separate calls to run() is that if the series does not complete, the entire series will be re-run. This is therefore useful to piece together commands that must all be run together.

The target and lock_name arguments

If you provide a target file, then pypiper will first check to see if that target exists, and only run the command if the target does not exist. To prevent two pipelines from running commands on the same target, pypiper will automatically derive a lock file name from your target file. You can use the lock_name argument to override this default. If you do not provide a target, then you will need to provide a lock_name argument because pypiper will not be able to derive one automatically.

The nofail argument

By default, a command that fails will cause the entire pipeline to halt. If you want to provide a command that should not halt the pipeline upon failure, set nofail=True. nofail can be used to implement non-essential parts of the pipeline.

The follow argument

The function has an optional argument named follow that is useful for checking or reporting results from a command. To the follow argument you must pass a python function (which may be either a defined function or a lambda function). These follow functions are then coupled to the command that is run; the follow function will be called by python if and only if the command is run.

Why is this useful? The major use cases are QC checks and reporting results. We use a follow function to run a QC check to make sure processes did what we expect, and then to report that result to the stats file. We only need to check the result and report the statistic once, so it's best to put these kind of checks in a follow function. Often, you'd like to run a function to examine the result of a command, but you only want to run that once, right after the command that produced the result. For example, counting the number of lines in a file after producing it, or counting the number of reads that aligned right after an alignment step. You want the counting process coupled to the alignment process, and don't need to re-run the counting every time you restart the pipeline. Because pypiper is smart, it will not re-run the alignment once it has been run; so there is no need to re-count the result on every pipeline run!

Follow functions let you avoid running unnecessary processes repeatedly in the event that you restart your pipeline multiple times (for instance, while debugging later steps in the pipeline).

The container argument

If you specify a string here, pypiper will wrap the command in a docker run call using the given container image name.

The shell argument: Python subprocess types

Since Pypiper runs all your commands from within python (using the subprocess python module), it's nice to be aware of the two types of processes that subprocess allows: direct processes and shell processes.

Direct process: A direct process is executed and managed by Python, so Python retains control over the process completely. This enables Python to monitor the memory use of the subprocess and keep track of it more efficiently. The disadvantage is that you may not use shell-specific operators; for instance, a shell like Bash is what understands an asterisk (*) for wildcard expansion, or a bracket (>) for output redirection, or a pipe (|) to string commands together; these therefore cannot be used in direct subprocesses in Python.

Shell process: In a shell process, Python first spawns a shell, and then runs the command in that shell. The spawned shell is the process controlled by Python, but processes in the shell are not. This allows you to use shell operators (e.g. *, >), but at the cost of the ability to monitor each command independently, because Python does not have direct control over subprocesses run inside a subshell.

Because we'd like to run direct subprocesses whenever possible, pypiper includes 2 nice provisions that help us deal with shell processes. First, pypiper automatically divides commands with pipes (|) and executes them as direct processes. This enables you to pass a piped shell command, but still get the benefit of a direct process. Each process in the pipe is monitored for return value and for memory use individually, and this information is reported in the pipeline log. Nice! Second, pypiper uses the psutil module to monitor memory of all child processes. That means when you use a shell process, we do monitor the memory use of that process (and any other processes it spawns), which gives us more accurate memory monitoring -- but not from each task individually.

You can force Pypiper by specifying shell=True or shell=False to the run function, but really, you shouldn't have to. By default Pypiper will try to guess: if your command contains * or >, it will be run in a shell. If it contains a pipe (|), it will be split and run as direct, piped subprocesses. Anything else will be run as a direct subprocess.