Storage and Data Guide

Storage Areas

Storage areas overview


Mount Path

Quota Policy

Purge Policy




5GB soft/7GB hard; 7-day grace;

No inode quota

No purge

Yes; daily for 30 days



Based on investment; 20 million

inodes per user

No purge

Yes; daily for 30 days



10TB/User; No inode quota

Daily Purge of files older than

30 days


local scratch



Following job completion



The /home area of the filesystem is where you land when you log into the cluster via SSH and is where your $HOME environment variable points. This area has a fairly small quota and is meant to contain your configuration files, job output/error files, and smaller software installations. Your /home area of the filesystem is automatically provisioned during the account provisioning process and the space is provided by the program. It is not possible to request an expansion of home directory quota.

The 7-day grace period on /home means that if the usage in your home directory is over 5GB for a 7-day period, your home directory will stop accepting new writes until data has been cleared to below the 5GB threshold.


The /projects area of the filesystem is where an investment group’s (single faculty member, lab group, department, or an entire college) storage capacity resides. You can have access to multiple project subdirectories if you are a member of various investment groups, and have been granted access to the space by the investments PI or Tech Rep. This storage area is where the bulk of the filesystem’s capacity is allocated.

Project location for allocations starting on/after Sept. 2023: /projects/illinois/$college/$department/$pi_netid (example: /projects/illinois/eng/physics/bobsmith)

Project location for legacy allocations (pre-Sept. 2023): /projects/$custom_chosen_name (example: /projects/smith_lab)


The /scratch area of the filesystem is where you can place data while it’s under active work. The scratch area of the cluster is provisioned by the Campus Cluster program for all users to have access to.

As noted in the summary table, files older than 30 days are purged from this space, based on a file’s last access time. The admin team maintains various tools to detect and monitor for users abusing the scratch area (such as by artificially modifying file access times) to attempt to circumvent the purge policy. Doing so is a violation of the cluster’s policy and is not allowed. If you believe you have a legitimate need to retain data in scratch for longer than 30 days, please submit a support request.

Scratch location: /scratch/users/$your_netid

Scratch — Local

The /scratch.local area is allocated on an individual compute node on the Campus Cluster or HTC system, this disk is provided by a compute node’s local disk, not the shared filesystem. The size of /scratch.local will vary across nodes of different investments. Be careful on assuming size, especially when running in the secondary queue where you have less control over what node your job lands on.

Data in /scratch.local is purged following a job’s completion, prior to the next job beginning on the node.

Storage Policies

Scratch Purge

Files in the /scratch area of the filesystem are purged daily, based on the file’s access time as recorded in the filesystem’s metadata. Once data is purged via the purge policy, there is no recovering the data. It has been permanently destroyed. Move high value data out of this space to make sure it doesn’t get forgotten and purged.

Filesystem Snapshots

Daily snapshots are run on the filesystem for the /home and /projects areas. These snapshots allow you to go back to a point in time and retrieve data you may have accidentally modified, deleted, or overwritten. These snapshots are not backups and reside on the same hardware as the primary copy of the data.

  • To access snapshots for /home visit: /home/.snapshots/home_YYYYMMDD*/$USER

  • To access snapshots for /projects visit:

    • Allocations starting on/after September 2023: /projects/illinois/$college/$department/$pi_netid/.snapshots/YYYYMMDD*/

    • Legacy allocations (pre-September 2023): /projects/$PROJECT_NAME/.snapshots/YYYYMMDD*/

Inode Quotas

An inode is a metadata record in the filesystem that tracks information about a file or directory (such as what blocks it lives on disk, permissions, ACL, extended attributes, etc.). There is an inode record for every file or directory in the filesystem.

For project directories, there is a 20 million inode per-user policy. Since metadata is stored on NVME for fast access, this quota ensures a tolerable ratio of data to metadata. If this quota becomes an issue for your team, please submit a support request to discuss a solution. For ways to help decrease inode usage, refer to Data Compression and Consolidation.

Data Classifications

There are many special data classifications in use by researchers across campus. Some types are permitted to be stored on Illinois Research Storage (the Campus Cluster) and some are not. Below are descriptions about some of those data types. If you have any questions, please submit a support request.

  • International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) – ITAR data is permitted to be stored on Illinois Research Storage, however all proper procedures and notifications must be followed. For more information about those procedures and who to contact, refer to the OVCR’s documentation.

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) / Personal Identifiable Health (PIH) – HIPAA / PIH data is not permitted to be stored on Illinois Research Storage.

Accessing Storage

There are a variety of ways to access Research Storage, and we continue to work with users to find more ways. Below is a summary table of where/how Research Storage is accessible, with further descriptions below.

Where/how to access Research Storage





HPC Head Nodes




HPC Compute Nodes




HTC Head Nodes

On Roadmap



HTC Compute Nodes

On Roadmap

On Roadmap


cc-xfer CLI DTN Nodes




Illinois Research Storage Globus Endpoints




Globus Shared Endpoints (external sharing)




Research Storage S3 Endpoint


Coming Soon


Lab Workstations (Research Labs)




#Available Upon Request (refer to the NFS / SAMBA sections)

HPC Head Nodes & Compute Nodes

All filesystem areas are accessible via the Campus Cluster’s batch head nodes and compute nodes to run jobs and interact with data on the command line.

HTC Head Nodes

We are working to implement access to investor /projects areas on the head nodes of the Illinois HTC subsystem. This work is in progress and this guide will be updated when that capability is available.

Mounting /home on the HTC head nodes (having a shared $HOME between the HPC and HTC subsystems) has been discussed and is in the process of being placed on the roadmap of new feature delivery.

HTC Compute Nodes

Mounting /home and /projects on the Illinois HTC compute nodes has been discussed and is likely to be placed on our roadmap soon. An upgrade and architectural shift of some subsystem components will be required to provide this in a stable fashion, and planning for that effort is underway. This section will be updated as new information becomes available.


The filesystem areas are available for access via the cluster’s cc-xfer DTN service. These DTN nodes provide a target for transferring data to and from the cluster using common command line interface (CLI) data transfer methods such as rsync, scp, sftp, and others.

The DTN nodes sit behind the round-robin alias of

Globus Endpoints

Globus is a web-based file transfer system that works in the background to move files between systems with Globus endpoints. Refer to Transferring Files - Globus for complete instructions on using Globus with NCSA computing resources.

The filesystem areas are accessible via the cluster’s Globus endpoint, not just for transfers to/from the system from/to other Globus endpoints, but also Box storage and Google Drive storage via the respective Globus endpoint collections.

You can also create a shared Globus endpoint to share data with people that are not affiliated with the University of Illinois system.

POSIX Endpoint

The Campus Cluster POSIX endpoint collection name is “Illinois Research Storage”.

Box Endpoint

The Campus Cluster Box endpoint collection name is “Illinois Research Storage - Box”.

Google Drive Endpoint

The Campus Cluster Google Drive endpoint collection name is “Illinois Research Storage - Google Drive”.

Lab Workstations/Laptops

Groups can request that their /projects area be made accessible for mounting on workstations and laptops in their research labs on campus. This access method is especially helpful for data acquisition from instruments straight onto the Research Storage system, and for viewing files remotely for use in other GUI-based software that is run on local machines instead of in a clustered environment. This access method is only available to machines on campus, and some security restrictions must be followed. For more information refer to the NFS / SAMBA sections.

Managing Your Data Usage

Quota Command

Use the quota command to view a summary of your usage across all areas of the filesystem and your team’s usage of the project space(s) you have access to.

The output of the quota command is updated on the system every ~15 minutes; there will be a slight delay between the creation/deletion of data and the update to the output of the quota command. When the filesystem is under heavy load, quota data may get a bit out of sync with reality; the system runs a quota verification script daily to force the quota data to sync up across the system.

[testuser1@cc-login1 ~]$ quota
Directories quota usage for user testuser1:

|      Fileset       |  User   |  User   |  User   |  Project |  Project |   User   |   User   |   User   |
|                    |  Block  |  Soft   |  Hard   |  Block   |  Block   |   File   |   Soft   |   Hard   |
|                    |  Used   |  Quota  |  Limit  |  Used    |  Limit   |   Used   |   Quota  |   Limit  |
| labgrp1            | 160K    | 1T      | 1T      | 58.5G    | 1T       | 6        | 20000000 | 20000000 |
| home               | 36.16M  | 5G      | 7G      | 58.5G    | 1T       | 1180     | 0        | 0        |
| scratch            | 2.5M    | 20T     | 20T     | 58.5G    | 1T       | 15292    | 0        | 0        |
| labgrp2            | 0       | 60T     | 60T     | 54.14T   | 60T      | 1        | 20000000 | 20000000 |
| labgrp3            | 0       | 107T    | 107T    | 88.31T   | 107T     | 11       | 20000000 | 20000000 |
  • User Block Used - How much capacity the user, testuser1, is consuming in each of the areas.

  • Project Block Used - How much capacity the entire team is using in their project space.

  • User File Used - How many inodes the user, testuser1, is consuming in each space.

  • The relevant soft and hard quotas (limits) for each of the areas are also shown in their respective columns. The last two columns are the inode quotas (limits).

Storage Web Dashboard Interface

The cluster overview dashboard shows an overview of the state of the cluster including:

  • job counts

  • node health numbers

  • number of users logged in

  • filesystem activity

  • overall usage

When an investment group purchases storage on the Research Storage service, a dashboard is created to view information related to the group’s usage. The dashboard will show point-in-time usage of the storage resources, trends over time, and a break down on a per-user level for capacity and inodes.

All members of a project should be able to log in and view their storage dashboard. Access to the dashboard is governed by group membership, which PIs and technical representatives control via the online User Portal. There may be a few hour delay between when a user is added/removed from a group and when their access to the group’s dashboard is added/removed.

To access your group/project storage dashboard:

  1. Go to the cluster overview dashboard.

  2. Click on the Sign In button in the upper-right corner of the screen.

    Campus cluster main dashboard sign in button.
  3. Log in with your campus NetID and NetID password.

    Grafana campus login page.
  4. In the search bar at the top of the screen, search for your project’s name, it should appear in the search results.

    “NCSA” project as an example:

    Campus cluster project search.
  5. Your team’s storage dashboard should look similar to the screenshot below. Trends for individuals will be displayed in the lower left for the username selected from the drop down, and the time period of the graphs can be adjusted in the Time Picker in the upper right corner. The utilization table in the lower right can be sorted by username (alphabetical), capacity used, or inodes used.

    Example Campus Cluster team dashboard.


How to Relocate Your .conda Directory to Project Space

Large conda installations can exceed your home directory size. This can be avoided by relocating your .conda directory to your project space, which has a larger quota than your home directory.

Relocate your .conda directory to your project space using the following steps:

Note, for allocations that started on/after September 2023, <your_proj_dir> will follow the syntax illinois/$college/$department/$pi_netid.

  1. Make a .conda directory in your project space.

    [testuser1@cc-login1 ~]$ mkdir -p /projects/<your_proj_dir>/<your_username>/.conda
  2. Copy over existing .conda data.

    [testuser1@cc-login1 ~]$ rsync -aAvP ~/.conda/* /projects/<your_proj_dir>/<your_username>/.conda/
  3. Remove your .conda directory from home.

    [testuser1@cc-login1 ~]$ rm -rf ~/.conda
  4. Create a link to your new .conda directory.

    [testuser1@cc-login1 ~]$ ln -s /projects/<your_proj_dir>/<your_username>/.conda ~/.conda

NFS Access to Research Storage

Investor groups can request that their /projects area be made available via NFS for mounting on machines local to their lab team. The project’s PI or technical representative can request NFS access to your /projects area by emailing with the following information:

  • Mount Type (Read-Only or Read-Write)

  • Project Area being exported

  • List of IP’s or IP CIDR range of the machines that need mount. (These machines must have a public IP address or a Campus internal routed IP address for them to be able to reach the NFS servers.)

NFS exports of the filesystem will be root-squashed which means that a user interacting with the storage on the remote machine via that local machine’s root account will have file access permissions that map to the nfsnobody user (generally UID 65534 on Linux systems).

When NFS mounting storage, it is advised to have user UIDs align with what they are on the Research Storage system. You can find your UID on the system, by running the id command. See example below:

[testuser1@cc-login ~]$ id
uid=7861(testuser1) gid=7861(testuser1) groups=7861(testuser1) context=unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023
[testuser1@cc-login ~]$

Once exported, the filesystem can be NFS mounted via two methods:

The round-robin DNS entry for the Research Storage NFS clustered endpoint is “”. Make sure you have the nfs-utils package installed on your machine. Our recommendations for NFS mount parameters are as follows:


Samba Access to Research Storage

Investor groups can request that their /projects area be made available via Samba for mounting on machines local to their lab team. The project’s PI or technical representative can request Samba access to your /projects area by emailing with the following information:

  • Project Area being Exported

Following the request, the Research Storage team will export that area of the filesystem to users in that project’s group as seen in the User Portal. To add/remove users who can mount the project area, add/remove them from the group in the portal.

Once exported the round robin DNS entry for the SAMBA node pool is “”. There are a guide to mounting a SAMBA share on Windows machines and a guide for mounting on Mac OS based machines available for reference. Make sure the machine is connected to the campus network and has a campus public IP address or an internally routed private IP address.

  • For Windows the path to the share should look like:

  • For MacOS the server address to use is:


For both operating systems, use your campus AD credentials (the same ones you use to access the cluster) to access these shares.

Data Compression and Consolidation

It can often be handy to bundle up a bunch of files into a single file bundle. This can make data transport easier and more efficient. It also helps reduce the space the data takes up in disks, in capacity and inodes.

As noted in the policy section on inode limits, we will discuss how to compress files together into a bundle and then zip them up to save space. To compress files with tar + gzip, see the example below where the images folder is run through tar + gz to create images_bundle.tar.gz:

## Just for illustration, this folder has 4,896 image files in it
[testuser1@cc-login hubble]~ ls images/ | wc -l

## tar and compress the folder, example:
[testuser1@cc-login hubble]~ tar -zcvf images_bundle.tar.gz images

## There should now be a single archive file that contains all the images
[testuser1@cc-login hubble]~ ls
images images_bundle.tar.gz

## You can now remove the original folder as all its contents are in the tar.gz file
[testuser1@cc-login hubble]~ rm -rf images

CLI Transfer Method: rsync

Use rsync for small to modest transfers to avoid impacting usability of the login node. Refer to Transferring Files - rsync for instructions on how to use rsync.

CLI Transfer Method: scp

Use scp for small to modest transfers to avoid impacting usability of the login node. Refer to Transferring Files - scp for instructions on how to use scp.

CLI Transfer Method: sftp

Refer to Transferring Files - sftp for instructions on how to use WinSCP and Cyberduck.

CLI Transfer Method: bbcp

Transferring data via bbcp requires the tool to be installed on both sides of the transfer. It is installed on the endpoint. You can download bbcp on your local machine from SLAC.

The example shows user, “testuser1”, transferring their “images” directory, using bbcp, to a project directory on the cluster.

Note, for allocations that started on/after September 2023, $teams_directory will follow the syntax illinois/$college/$department/$pi_netid.

## Users wants to transfer the "images" directory
[testuser1@users-machine hubble]~ ls

## Transfer using bbcp to a project directory
[testuser1@users-machine hubble]~ bbcp -r -w 4m images [email protected]:/projects/$teams_directory/

CLI Transfer Method: rclone

The Rclone file transfer utility is installed on the endpoint. Configuring Rclone for data transfer can be done for a variety of storage backends.

If you are targeting transferring data to/from Research Storage from/to a local machine, it is best to set up the Research Storage endpoint using the SFTP connector on your local machine.

If you are targeting the transfer of data to/from Research Storage from/to another cloud storage service (such as Amazon S3, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive), it is best to set up that endpoint as a source/target on the endpoint itself.

For instructions on configuring Rclone to send/receive data from your desired location, refer to the Rclone documentation.

How to Create a Shared Globus Endpoint

Globus Shared Endpoint functionality is a great way to share data with people that are not affiliated with the University of Illinois system. To grant a person at an external organization access to data you manage, all the other person needs is a free Globus account and an endpoint on their side to transfer the data to.

To set up a shared endpoint:

  1. Log into Globus and connect to the “Illinois Research Storage” collection.

  2. Navigate to, and select, the directory you want to share with external users; currently only data in /projects is allowed to be shared externally.

  3. Click the “Share” button to the right of the directory.

    Globus Illinois research storage manager window with the share button highlighted.
  4. Click the “Add Guest Collection” button.

    Globus add guest collection button.
  5. Fill in all the information about the share and click the “Create Collection” button. The more information you fill in the better, and the easier for others to find.

    Globus create new guest collection window.
  6. After creating the collection, you will get dropped into the permissions tab for that shared endpoint. Click the “Add Permissions - Share With” button to add people you want to share the data with.

    Globus add permissions - share with button.
  7. Fill in the share information and click the “Add Permission “ button. You can grant access to a smaller subset of your dataset (using the “Path” field) and choose read or read/write access.

    Globus add permissions - share with window.
  8. Once added, you should see the person in the “Shared With” section.

    Globus permissions shared with window.

Optimizing Data and I/O Access

Understanding Filesystem Block Size

The Research Storage subsystem is currently based on IBM’s Spectrum Scale Filesystem (formerly known as GPFS) v5.1. This filesystem, like others, is formatted at a given block size, however it offers the advanced feature of sub-block allocation. A filesystem’s block size is the name for the smallest unit of allocation on the filesystem.

For example, on a normal filesystem with a block size of 512KB, files smaller than that size (let’s say 200KB) will sit in a single block, using only part of its available capacity. The remaining 312KB in that block will be unusable because that block can only be mapped for a single file and the first file is already associated with that block; this leaves that block’s use efficiency less 50%. That wasted space is counted against the user’s quota as no other user can leverage that space. Setting a smaller block size generally improves the efficiency of the filesystem and wastes less space. However, it comes at the cost of performance. The smaller the block size, the slower the filesystem will perform on high-bandwidth I/O applications.

The ability to have sub-block allocation on the filesystem allows the filesystem to be formatted at a given block size but have the minimum allocatable block size be much smaller. In this way, you can get performance benefits of large block sizes, with much less efficiency loss on small files.

The Research Storage subsystem is formatted at a 16MB block size, which allows for very high system throughput (which many user applications demand). However, that block can be subdivided into 1,024 sub-blocks, so the minimum allocatable block size is 16KB. For example, a 12KB file will render ~4KB of space unusable.

Impact of I/O Size on Throughput performance

The filesystem block size impacts the I/O performance that applications receive when running compute jobs on the HPC and HTC systems. When applications are doing I/O on the filesystem, the size of their I/O requests are a key trait to determining how much performance they will receive. When possible, you should configure your workflows to use larger files.

For applications that can’t escape using tiny files, sometimes the use of HDF files can help improve application performance by creating a virtual filesystem within a file that contains all the data.