Symlink Mounted Data

Floydhub's basic data-mounting functionality is sufficient for most users' needs. However, if you find yourself with more complex requirements, symlinking can almost certainly provide a solution.

Here are some common FloydHub data-mounting needs that symlinking can solve:

  • Code requires the data to be available at a location that is not valid with the mounting syntax of floyd run --data.
  • Multiple mounted datasources need to be available under a single directory.
  • Directories in a single datasource need to be split into their own locations.

Simply copying the data from one location to another during your job would also solve these problems, but copying data is slow and inefficient, especially for large datasets. Symlinks can be created very quickly and are a much more ideal solution.

You can create symlinks on FloydHub's deep-learning servers during your job using the same ln command available on *nix operating systems (like Linux and MacOS). To create a symlink during a job you'll need to send the ln command to the server's operating system. If you already know how to create symlinks on a *nix OS, you can skip forward to the Ways to use the ln command with FloydHub section. If you don't know much about symlinks, read on for a quick primer.

You can think of a symlink as an alias for a file or directory that allows programs to find the file or directory at more than one location on the file system. Calling a symlink an "alias" isn't a technically correct way to refer to it, but we'll sometimes use that term in this guide because it can be more fitting and easier to internalize and remember.

Creating a symlink on a *nix OS uses the ln command. Here is the syntax:


Where <TARGET> is the path of the existing file or directory you want to create an alias/symlink for, and <LINK_PATH_WITH_OPTIONAL_NAME> is the path and (optional) name of the new symlink/alias of the <TARGET>.

If <LINK_PATH_WITH_OPTIONAL_NAME> doesn't include a name, the name of the <TARGET> will be used. Let's go through a couple of examples to clarify that. Assuming you want to create an alias/symlink for /my_data and have already created a new directory called /existing_dir:

  • Specifying a name in <LINK_PATH_WITH_OPTIONAL_NAME>:
    $ ln -s /my_data /existing_dir/new_name_for_my_data`
    The new name here is new_name_for_my_data. Given the command above, your data will be accessible at /my_data and /existing_dir/new_name_for_my_data.
  • Without specifying a name in <LINK_PATH_WITH_OPTIONAL_NAME>:
    $ ln -s /my_data /existing_dir`
    Because no new name was given, the name of the <TARGET> (which is my_data) will be used. The data will accessible at /my_data and /existing_dir/my_data.

Here are some notes/gotchas about creating symlinks using ln:

  • Always use absolute paths for both the <TARGET> and <LINK_PATH_WITH_OPTIONAL_NAME> parameters. This will ensure you don't run into some odd behaviors that can manifest when using relative paths.
  • The directory in which the <LINK_PATH_WITH_OPTIONAL_NAME> terminates must already exist. For example, if you want to make the data located at /my_data to be aliased/symlinked at /home/me/foo_data, you first need to create the /home/me directory.The following commands would successfully implement this goal:
    # First we make sure the /home/me directory exists:
    $ mkdir -p /home/me
    # Now we are ready to create the symlink. We'll supply the name foo_data
    # to the <LINK_PATH_WITH_OPTIONAL_NAME> parameter:
    $ ln -s /my_data /home/me/foo_data

Ways to use the ln command with FloydHub

To send the ln command to the server's OS to create a symlink during your job, you can follow one of at least a few approaches:

1. Using the [COMMAND] portion of floyd run

With this approach, we add the ln calls to the [COMMAND] portion of the call to floyd run [OPTIONS] [COMMAND] (see the floyd run syntax here). This is the most straight-forward approach, but it can it can get a bit unwieldy if you have more complex needs.

Example 1

Let's say you have two datasources mounted under /train and /test, respectively. Your Python script train_and_eval.py expects both the datasources to be available under the same parent directory, say /data/train and /data/test. You can symlink the datasources to those locations.

In the example below, we create a directory called /data, and then create links inside of it to our datasets, which are at /train and /test (note the --data flags). This means that our Python script can reference /data/train and /data/test and it will find our datasets.

The [COMMAND] portion of the floyd run [OPTIONS] [COMMAND] in this example chains a series of commands, which are executed in sequence:

  1. mkdir -p /data
  2. ln -s /train /data
  3. ln -s /test /data
  4. python train_and_eval.py

Here's the command in full:

$ floyd run \
  --data udacity/datasets/bike-sharing-dataset/1:train \
  --data floydhub/datasets/mnist-test/1:test \
  "mkdir -p /data && ln -s /train /data && ln -s /test /data && python train_and_eval.py"

2. Using a bash script

As you can see in the previous section, using the [COMMAND] portion of floydrun [OPTIONS] [COMMAND] can get unwieldy when there are many commands. A better alternative is to create a bash script that creates our symlinks and also kicks off our main Python script.

If you are not familiar with writing bash scripts, a quick search of the Internet can get you up to speed on the basics, but bash scripting is out of the scope of this documentation.

Example 1

This bash script should live in the root/top-level directory of your project. We'll call ours run.sh. Here's an example of what it might look like:


# Create a /data directory
mkdir /data

# Symlink mounted data to their destinations
ln -s /train /data
ln -s /test /data

# Execute Python script
python train_and_eval.py

Let's execute the bash script using floyd run:

$ floyd run \
  --data floydhub/datasets/imagenet-vgg-verydeep-19/1:train \
  --data floydhub/datasets/mnist/1:test \
   "bash run.sh"

Because the last line of our bash script runs our Python script, we can kick off our entire job by running only the bash script.

This is a very effective pattern if your jobs require a more complex setup—create a bash script that sets up your environment, and then have the bash script call your python script. This keeps your setup separate from your code, and keeps things clean.

Example 2

Your data is mounted under /vgg using --datafloydhub/datasets/vgg-ilsvrc-19-layers/1:vgg. However, your code expects the data to be present at /home/data/vgg/2017. Let's create a symlink to make your data available at /home/data/vgg/2017. Here's an example of a bash script (we'll call it run.sh) that takes care of the symlinking and calls our training script.


# Create directory
mkdir -p /home/data/vgg

# Symlink our data at /home/data/vgg/2017
ln -s /vgg /home/data/vgg/2017

# Call our training script
python train.py

Now let's tie it all together with our floyd run command:

$ floyd run --data floydhub/datasets/vgg-ilsvrc-19-layers/1:vgg "bash run.sh"

3. For Jupyter Notebooks

Symlinking with Jupyter Notebooks follows the same principles that a regular job does. Here's an example:

Example 1

Your data is mounted under /vgg using --datafloydhub/datasets/vgg-ilsvrc-19-layers/1:vgg, but you want your data to be present at /home/data/vgg/2017. The notebook below accomplishes that with a symlink:

Symlink Jupyter

Help make this document better

This guide, as well as the rest of our docs, are open-source and available on GitHub. We welcome your contributions.