Cost Explorer with AWS ParallelCluster 📊

Posted on Apr 6, 2023
tl;dr: Track cluster cost with AWS Cost Explorer

Cost Explorer Logo

Cost Explorer allows you to track cost at the cluster, queue, user and job level. It does this by tracking tags applied automatically to EC2 Instances launched with parallelcluster.

This gives users a view of exactly how much a cluster costs overtime, it tracks:

  • EC2 Instances
  • EBS Volumes
  • FSx Lustre Volumes
  • EFS Volumes
  • Data Transfer


Ok so how do we set this up?

  1. Activate the parallelcluster:cluster-name tag in the Billing Dashboard > Cost Allocation Tags

Activate Tags

Update: as of June 8th 2022, you can activate these tags programmatically from the AWS API, CLI or SDK.

Wait 24 hours 📆 🥱

  1. Then go to Cost Explorer > Click on Tags on the right side and select parallelcluster:cluster-name and the cluster you wish to display the cost of. If you don’t see the tag, it’s most likely since it hasn’t been 24 hours since you activated it 🥱.

Cost Explorer Dashboard

You can group by Instance Type to breakdown cost by instance type, you can group by Service to break down costs between EC2, EBS, ect.

Custom Tags

You can also track resources based on custom tags, such as user, job id, project, ect… Please keep in mind the following caveats:

  1. Jobs must use up a full instance, i.e. multiple jobs cannot run on the same instance at the same time. We accomplish this in the script below with the --exclusive flag.
  2. Jobs that span more than one instance need to apply the tag to each instance. Slurm only executes the sbatch script on the first instance in the reservation. To do this you can wrap the aws create-tags command in mpirun.


  1. Step 1 is to add permissions to create those tags. Create an IAM role called pclustertagging with the following content:

        "Version": "2012-10-17",
        "Statement": [
                "Effect": "Allow",
                "Action": [
                "Resource": "*"
  2. Next attach it to the head node and compute nodes in the cluster using the AdditionalIamPolicies parameter.

            - Policy: arn:aws:iam::822857487308:policy/pclustertagging
  3. Finally we’ll change the ScaleDownIdleTime parameter to 1. This helps ensure that each job gets a dedicated instance provisioned to it and doesn’t re-use an existing instance. Tagging will only work if each job is assigned a unique instance, cost-explorer doesn’t split instance runtime based on when the tag was updated, it’ll count the whole instance runtime to the last tag applied.

        ScaledownIdletime: 1
  4. Update the cluster to apply these changes.

  5. Next we’ll create a Slurm Prolog script to automatically tag instances prior to job launch:

    # get IMDSv2.0 token
    TOKEN=$(curl -X PUT "" -H "X-aws-ec2-metadata-token-ttl-seconds: 21600")
    # get instance id
    instance_id=$(curl -s -H "X-aws-ec2-metadata-token: $TOKEN"
    region=$(curl -s -H "X-aws-ec2-metadata-token: $TOKEN" | jq -r '.region')
    # tag instance with job-id
    aws --region ${region} ec2 create-tags --resources ${instance_id} --tags Key=parallelcluster:job-id,Value=${SLURM_JOB_ID}
    # tag instance with user
    aws --region ${region} ec2 create-tags --resources ${instance_id} --tags Key=parallelcluster:user,Value=${SLURM_JOB_USER}
    # tag instance with job name
    aws --region ${region} ec2 create-tags --resources ${instance_id} --tags Key=parallelcluster:job-name,Value=${SLURM_JOB_NAME}
  6. Move it to the right directory and make it executable, i.e.:

    sudo su
    mv /opt/slurm/etc/
    chmod 744 /opt/slurm/etc/
    echo "Prolog=/opt/slurm/etc/" >> /opt/slurm/etc/slurm.conf
    systemctl restart slurmctld

    In the following table I list environment variables that can be used for the tag:

    Environment Variable Description
    User $SLURM_JOB_USER User submitting the job.
    Job ID $SLURM_JOB_ID Job ID assigned by Slurm.
    Project $SLURM_JOB_NAME Job name can be used to track project / application, i.e. cfd or fea
    Account $SLURM_JOB_ACCOUNT Slurm account setup by sacct.
    Comment $SLURM_JOB_COMMENT This can be used for any other categorization you want to apply. Users specify the comment at job submission time with sbatch --comment ....
  7. Now users can submit a job like normal, keep in mind they should use the --exclusive flag to ensure the instance isn’t shared with another job (and thus tag is overwritten):

    sbatch --exclusive
  8. Now when the job is launched you can run a similar query on cost explorer but get data from these tags. In the following example I added a tag parallelcluter:project and then used that to see aggregate project costs across all my clusters.

    Custom Tag


Previously the above script was written for IMDS v1.0, however when creating a cluster with ParallelCluster UI, it’ll default to IMDS v2.0 causing errors in the old script. The solution is:

  1. First check your parallelcluster config to see if has v2.0 enforced, if so, it’ll show:

        ImdsSupport: v2.0
  2. Update the script to the version shown above, it’ll have a line with TOKEN=$(...) if it supports IMDS v2.0.

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