Amazon Cloud

Nextflow provides out of the box support for the Amazon AWS cloud allowing you to setup a computing cluster, deploy it and run your pipeline in the AWS infrastructure in a few commands.


Cloud configuration attributes are provided in the nextflow.config file as shown in the example below:

cloud {
    imageId = 'ami-4b7daa32'
    instanceType = 'm4.xlarge'
    subnetId = 'subnet-05222a43'

The above attributes define the virtual machine ID and type to be used and the VPC subnet ID to be applied in you cluster. Replace these values with the ones of your choice.

Nextflow only requires a Linux image that provides support for Cloud-init bootstrapping mechanism and includes a Java runtime (version 8) and a Docker engine (version 1.11 or higher).

For your convenience the following pre-configured Amazon Linux AMI is available in the EU Ireland region: ami-4b7daa32.

AWS credentials

Nextflow will use the AWS credentials defined in your environment, using the standard AWS variables shown below:


Alternatively AWS credentials can be specified in the Nextflow configuration file. See AWS configuration for more details.


Credentials can also be provided by using an IAM Instance Role. The benefit of this approach is that it spares you from managing/distributing AWS keys explicitly. Read the IAM Roles documentation and this blog post for more details.

User & SSH key

By default Nextflow creates in each EC2 instance a user with the same name as the one in your local computer and install the SSH public key available at the path $HOME/.ssh/ A different user/key can be specified as shown below:

cloud {
    userName = 'the-user-name'
    keyFile = '/path/to/ssh/'

If you want to use a key-pair defined in your AWS account and the default user configured in the AMI, specify the attribute keyName in place of keyFile and the name of the existing user specifying the userName attribute.


The following storage types can be defined in the cloud instances: boot, instance and shared.

Boot storage

You can set the size of the root device volume by specifying the attribute bootStorageSize. For example:

cloud {
    imageId = 'ami-xxx'
    bootStorageSize = '10 GB'

Instance storage

Amazon instances can provide one or more ephemeral storage volumes, depending the instance type chosen. This storage can be made available by using the instanceStorageMount configuration attributes, as shown below:

cloud {
    imageId = 'ami-xxx'
    instanceStorageMount = '/mnt/scratch'

The mount path can be any of your choice.


When the selected instance provides more than one ephemeral storage volume, Nextflow automatically groups all of them together in a single logical volume and mounts it to the specified path. Therefore the resulting instance storage size is equals to the sum of the sizes of all ephemeral volumes provided by the actual instance (this feature requires Nextflow version 0.27.0 or higher).

If you want to mount a specific instance storage volume, specify the corresponding device name by using the instanceStorageDevice setting in the above configuration. See the Amazon documentation for details on EC2 Instance storage and devices naming.

Shared file system

A shared file system can easily be made available in your cloud cluster by using the Amazon EFS storage. You will only need to specify in the cloud configuration the EFS file system ID and optionally the mount path. For example:

cloud {
    imageId = 'ami-xxx'
    sharedStorageId = 'fs-1803efd1'
    sharedStorageMount = '/mnt/shared'


When the attribute sharedStorageMount is omitted the path /mnf/efs is used by default.

Cluster deployment

Once defined the configuration settings in the nextflow.config file you can create the cloud cluster by using the following command:

nextflow cloud create my-cluster -c <num-of-nodes>

The string my-cluster identifies the cluster instance. Replace it with a name of your choice.

Finally replace num-of-nodes with the actual number of instances that will made-up the cluster. One node is created as master, the remaining as workers. If the option -c is omitted only the master node is created.


You will be charged accordingly the type and the number of instances chosen.

Pipeline execution

Once the cluster initialization is complete, connect to the master node using the SSH command which will be displayed by Nextflow.


On MacOS, use the following command to avoid being asked for a pass-phrase even you haven’t defined one:

ssh-add -K [private key file]

You can run your Nextflow pipeline as usual, the environment is automatically configured to use the Ignite executor. If the Amazon EFS storage is specified in the cloud configuration the Nextflow work directory will automatically be set in a shared folder in that file system.

The suggested approach is to run your pipeline downloading it from a public repository such GitHub and to pack the binaries dependencies in a Docker container as described in the Pipeline sharing section.

Cluster shutdown

When completed shutdown the cluster instances by using the following command:

nextflow cloud shutdown my-cluster

Cluster auto-scaling

Nextflow integration for AWS cloud provides a native support auto-scaling that allows the computing cluster to scale-out or scale-down i.e. add or remove computing nodes dynamically at runtime.

This is a critical feature, especially for pipelines crunching not homogeneous dataset, because it allows the cluster to adapt dynamically to the actual workload computing resources need as they change over the time.

Cluster auto-scaling is enabled by adding the autoscale option group in the configuration file as shown below:

cloud {
    imageId = 'ami-xxx'
    autoscale {
        enabled = true
        maxInstances = 10

The above example enables automatic cluster scale-out i.e. new instances are automatically launched and added to the cluster when tasks remain too long in wait status because there aren’t enough computing resources available. The maxInstances attribute defines the upper limit to which the cluster can grow.

By default unused instances are not removed when are not utilised. If you want to enable automatic cluster scale-down specify the terminateWhenIdle attribute in the autoscale configuration group.

It is also possible to define a different AMI image ID, type and spot price for instances launched by the Nextflow autoscaler. For example:

cloud {
    imageId = 'ami-xxx'
    instanceType = 'm4.large'

    autoscale {
        enabled = true
        spotPrice = 0.15
        minInstances = 5
        maxInstances = 10
        imageId = 'ami-yyy'
        instanceType = 'm4.4xlarge'
        terminateWhenIdle = true

By doing that it’s is possible to create a cluster with a single node i.e. the master node. Then the autoscaler will automatically add the missing instances, up to the number defined by the minInstances attributes. These will have a different image and type from the master node and will be launched a spot instances because the spotPrice attribute has been specified.

Spot prices

Nextflow includes an handy command to list the current price of EC2 spot instances. Simply type the following command in your shell terminal:

nextflow cloud spot-prices

It will print the current spot price for all available instances type, similar to the example below:

t1.micro    0.0044    0.0044 eu-west-1c Linux/UNIX                 1 627.7 MB -
m4.4xlarge  0.1153    0.0072 eu-west-1a Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)   16    64 GB -
m4.10xlarge 0.2952    0.0074 eu-west-1b Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)   40   160 GB -
m4.large    0.0155    0.0077 eu-west-1b Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)    2     8 GB -
m4.2xlarge  0.0612    0.0077 eu-west-1a Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)    8    32 GB -
m4.xlarge   0.0312    0.0078 eu-west-1a Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)    4    16 GB -
c4.8xlarge  0.3406    0.0095 eu-west-1c Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)   36    60 GB -
m1.xlarge   0.0402    0.0100 eu-west-1b Linux/UNIX                 4    15 GB 4 x 420 GB
c4.4xlarge  0.1652    0.0103 eu-west-1b Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)   16    30 GB -
c1.xlarge   0.0825    0.0103 eu-west-1a Linux/UNIX                 8     7 GB 4 x 420 GB
m1.medium   0.0104    0.0104 eu-west-1b Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)    1   3.8 GB 1 x 410 GB
c3.8xlarge  0.3370    0.0105 eu-west-1a Linux/UNIX                32    60 GB 2 x 320 GB
c3.2xlarge  0.0860    0.0108 eu-west-1c Linux/UNIX                 8    15 GB 2 x 80 GB
c3.4xlarge  0.1751    0.0109 eu-west-1c Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)   16    30 GB 2 x 160 GB
m3.2xlarge  0.0869    0.0109 eu-west-1c Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)    8    30 GB 2 x 80 GB
r3.large    0.0218    0.0109 eu-west-1c Linux/UNIX                 2  15.2 GB 1 x 32 GB

It’s even possible to refine the showed data by specifying a filtering and ordering criteria. For example:

nextflow cloud spot-prices -sort pricecpu -filter "cpus==4"

It will only print instance types having 4 cpus and sorting them by the best price per cpu.

Advanced configuration

Read Cloud configuration section to learn more about advanced cloud configuration options.

AWS Batch


This is an experimental feature and it may change in a future release. It requires Nextflow version 0.26.0 or higher.

AWS Batch is a managed computing service that allows the execution of containerised workloads in the Amazon cloud infrastructure.

Nextflow provides a built-in support for AWS Batch which allows the seamless deployment of a Nextflow pipeline in the cloud offloading the process executions as Batch jobs.


1 - Make sure your pipeline processes specifies one or more Docker containers by using the container directive.

2 - Container images need to be published in a Docker registry such as Docker Hub, Quay or ECS Container Registry that can be reached by ECS Batch.

3 - Specify the AWS Batch executor in the pipeline configuration.

4 - Specify one or more AWS Batch queues for the execution of your pipeline by using the queue directive. Batch queues allow you to bind the execution of a process to a specific computing environment ie. number of CPUs, type of instances (On-demand or Spot), scaling ability, etc. See the AWS Batch documentation to learn how to setup Batch queues.

5 (optional) - Nextflow automatically creates the Batch Job definitions needed to execute your pipeline processes. However you may still need to specify a custom Job Definition to fine control the configuration settings of a specific job. In this case you can associate a process execution with a Job definition of your choice by using the container directive and specifing, in place of the Docker image name, the Job definition name prefixed by the job-definition:// string.

An example nextflow.config file is shown below:

process.executor = 'awsbatch'
process.queue = 'my-batch-queue'
process.container = ''
aws.region = 'eu-west-1'


Nextflow requires to access the AWS command line tool (aws) from the container in which the job runs in order to stage the required input files and to copy back the resulting output files in the S3 storage.

The aws tool can either be included in container image(s) used by your pipeline execution or installed in a custom AMI that needs to used in place of the default AMI when configuring the Batch Computing environment.

The latter approach is preferred because it allows the use of existing Docker images without the need to add the AWS CLI tool to them.


AWS Batch uses the default ECS instance AMI, which has only a 22 GB storage volume which may not be enough for real world data analysis pipelines.

See the section below to learn how to create a custom AWS Batch custom AMI.

Custom AMI

In the EC2 Dashboard, click the Launch Instance button, then choose AWS Marketplace in the left pane and enter ECS in the search box. In result list select Amazon ECS-Optimized Amazon Linux AMI, then continue as usual to configure and launch the instance.


The selected instance has a bootstrap volume of 8GB and a second EBS volume 22G for computation which is hardly enough for real world genomic workloads. Make sure to specify an amount of storage in the second volume large enough for the needs of your pipeline execution.

When the instance is running, SSH into it, install the AWS CLI tools as explained below or any other required tool that may be required.

Also make sure the Docker configuration reflects the amount of storage you have specified when launching the instance as shown below:

$ docker info | grep -i data
 Data file:
 Metadata file:
 Data Space Used: 500.2 MB
 Data Space Total: 1.061 TB
 Data Space Available: 1.06 TB
 Metadata Space Used: 733.2 kB
 Metadata Space Total: 1.074 GB
 Metadata Space Available: 1.073 GB

The above example shows the Docker data configuration for a 1000GB EBS data volume. See the ECS Storage documentation for more details.


The maximum storage size of a single Docker container is by default 10GB, independently the amount of data space available in the underlying volume (see Base device size for more details).

You can verify the current setting by using this command:

$ docker info | grep -i base
  Base Device Size: 10.74 GB

If your pipeline needs more storage for a single task execution, you will need to specify the dm.basesize setting with a proper value in the /etc/sysconfig/docker-storage configuration file. See here and here for details.

Once done that, create a new AMI by using the Create Image option in the EC2 Dashboard or the AWS command line tool.

The new AMI ID needs to be specified when creating the Batch Computing environment.

AWS CLI installation

The AWS cli tool needs to be installed by using a self-contained package manager such as Conda.

The following snippet shows how to install AWS CLI with Miniconda:

sudo yum install -y wget
bash -b -f -p $HOME/miniconda
$HOME/miniconda/bin/conda install -c conda-forge -y awscli

When complete verifies that the AWS cli package works correctly:

$ ./miniconda/bin/aws --version
aws-cli/1.11.120 Python/3.6.3 Linux/4.9.43-17.39.amzn1.x86_64 botocore/1.5.83


The aws tool will be placed in a directory named bin in the main installation folder. Modifying this directory structure, after the installation, will cause the tool to not work properly.

By default Nextflow will assume the AWS CLI tool is directly available in the container. To use an installation from the host image specify the awscli parameter in the Nextflow executor configuration as shown below:

executor.awscli = '/home/ec2-home/miniconda/bin/aws'

Pipeline execution

The pipeline can be launched either in a local computer or a EC2 instance. The latter is suggested for heavy or long running workloads.

Pipeline input data should to be stored in the Input data S3 storage. In the same manner the pipeline execution must specifies a S3 bucket as working directory. For example:

nextflow run my-pipeline -w s3://my-bucket/some/path


Problem: The Pipeline execution terminates with an AWS error message similar to the one shown below:

JobQueue <your queue> not found

Make sure you have defined a AWS region in the Nextflow configuration file and it matches the region in which your Batch environment has been created.

Problem: A process execution fails reporting the following error message:

Process <your task> terminated for an unknown reason -- Likely it has been terminated by the external system

This may happen when Batch is unable to execute the process script. A common cause of this problem is that the Docker container image you have specified uses a non standard entrypoint which does not allow the execution of the BASH launcher script required by Nextflow to run the job.

Check also the Job execution log in the AWS Batch dashboard for further error details.