10.2. Prerequisites

Successful launch of Open MPI jobs requires the ability to find Open MPI’s executables and shared libraries on all nodes at run time.

In general, Open MPI’s mpicc sets the paths to these with the runpath linker option when an application is compiled and linked. If the Open MPI executables and libraries can be found via in system-default search paths or the runpath embedded in an application (i.e., without the user needing to set or modify PATH or LD_LIBRARY_PATH), then nothing additional needs to be done. However, if the Open MPI binaries are not found, the instructions below may be used to locate them.

If the runpath embedded in an application is not sufficient to locate the Open MPI binaries, then the PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH can be used to locate them. In general, Open MPI requires that its executables are in your PATH on every node on which you will run and if Open MPI was compiled as dynamic libraries (which is the default), the directory where its libraries are located must be in your LD_LIBRARY_PATH on every node. For example:

  • If Open MPI is installed in /usr/bin and /usr/lib), that is usually sufficient, and the user does not need to do anything extra.

  • If Open MPI is installed in a location that is not searched by default, users may need to add $prefix/bin to their PATH and $libdir (which defaults to $prefix/lib) to their LD_LIBRARY_PATH.


    In scheduled environments, ensuring Open MPI’s executables and libraries can be found on the node that executes mpirun(1) may be sufficient.

    In non-scheduled environments, users may need to set the PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variables in their shell setup files (e.g., $HOME/.bashrc) so that non-interactive ssh-based logins will be able to find the Open MPI executables and libraries.

    For example, if Open MPI was installed with a prefix of /opt/openmpi, then the following should be in your PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH

    Environment variable

    Value to add





    Depending on your environment, you may need to set these values in your shell startup files (e.g., .bashrc, .cshrc, etc.).

Additionally, Open MPI requires that jobs can be started on remote nodes without any input from the keyboard. For example, if using ssh as the remote agent, you must have your environment setup to allow execution on remote nodes without entering a password or passphrase.

10.2.1. Adding Open MPI to PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH

Open MPI must be able to find its executables in your PATH on every node (if Open MPI was compiled as dynamic libraries, then its library path must appear in LD_LIBRARY_PATH as well). As such, your configuration/initialization files need to add Open MPI to your PATH / LD_LIBRARY_PATH properly.

How to do this may be highly dependent upon your local configuration; you may need to consult with your local system administrator. Some system administrators take care of these details for you, some don’t. Some common examples are included below, however.

You must have at least a minimum understanding of how your shell works to get Open MPI in your PATH / LD_LIBRARY_PATH properly. Note that Open MPI must be added to your PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH in the following situations:

  1. When you login to an interactive shell

    If your interactive login environment is not configured properly, executables like mpicc will not be found, and it is typically obvious what is wrong. The Open MPI executable directory can manually be added to the PATH, or the user’s startup files can be modified such that the Open MPI executables are added to the PATH every login. This latter approach is preferred.

    All shells have some kind of script file that is executed at login time to set things like PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH and perform other environmental setup tasks. This startup file is the one that needs to be edited to add Open MPI to the PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH. Consult the manual page for your shell for specific details (some shells are picky about the permissions of the startup file, for example). The table below lists some common shells and the startup files that they read/execute upon login:


    Interactive login startup files


    .bash_profile if it exists, or .bash_login if it exists, or .profile if it exists

    (in that order). Note that some Linux distributions automatically come with

    .bash_profile scripts for users that automatically execute .bashrc as well.

    Consult the bash(1) man page for more information.


    .zshrc followed by .zshenv

    sh (or Bash

    named sh)



    .cshrc followed by .login


    .tcshrc if it exists, .cshrc if it does not, followed by .login

  2. When you login to non-interactive shells on remote nodes

    If your non-interactive remote environment is not configured properly, executables like mpirun(1) will not function properly, and it can be somewhat confusing to figure out.

    The startup files in question here are the ones that are automatically executed for a non-interactive login on a remote node (e.g., ssh othernode ps). Note that not all shells support this, and that some shells use different files for this than listed for interactive logins. Some shells will supersede non-interactive login startup files with files for interactive logins. That is, running non-interactive login startup file may automatically invoke interactive login startup file. The following table lists some common shells and the startup file that is automatically executed, either by Open MPI or by the shell itself:


    Non-interactive login startup files


    .bashrc if it exists


    .zshrc followed by .zshenv

    sh (or Bash

    named sh)

    This shell does not execute any file automatically,

    so Open MPI will execute the .profile script

    before invoking Open MPI executables on remote nodes




    .tcshrc if it exists, .cshrc if it does not

10.2.2. Using the --prefix option with mpirun

If users are unable to add the relevant directories to PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH, the mpirun(1) --prefix option may be sufficient.

There are some situations where you cannot modify the PATH or LD_LIBRARY_PATH — e.g., some ISV applications prefer to hide all parallelism from the user, and therefore do not want to make the user modify their shell startup files. Another case is where you want a single user to be able to launch multiple MPI jobs simultaneously, each with a different MPI implementation. Hence, setting shell startup files to point to one MPI implementation would be problematic.

In such cases, you have two options:

  1. Use the mpirun(1) --prefix command line option (described below).

  2. Modify the wrapper compilers to include directives to include run-time search locations for the Open MPI libraries.

mpirun(1)’s --prefix command line option takes as an argument the top-level directory where Open MPI was installed. While relative directory names are possible, they can become ambiguous depending on the job launcher used; using absolute directory names is strongly recommended.

For example, say that Open MPI was installed into /opt/openmpi-VERSION. You would use the --prefix option thusly:

shell$ mpirun --prefix /opt/openmpi-VERSION -n 4 a.out

This will prefix the PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH on both the local and remote hosts with /opt/openmpi-VERSION/bin and /opt/openmpi-VERSION/lib, respectively. This is usually unnecessary when using resource managers to launch jobs (e.g., Slurm, Torque, etc.) because they tend to copy the entire local environment — to include the PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH — to remote nodes before execution. As such, if PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH are set properly on the local node, the resource manager will automatically propagate those values out to remote nodes. The --prefix option is therefore usually most useful in ssh-based environments (or similar).

It is possible to make this the default behavior by passing to configure the flag --enable-mpirun-prefix-by-default. This will make mpirun(1) behave exactly the same as mpirun --prefix $prefix ..., where $prefix is the value given to --prefix in configure.

Finally, note that specifying the absolute pathname to mpirun(1) is equivalent to using the --prefix argument. For example, the following is equivalent to the above command line that uses --prefix:

shell$ /opt/openmpi-VERSION/bin/mpirun -n 4 a.out


TODO Josh H points out that we might also want to mention OMPIHOME for PRRTE’s .ini file here. Leaving this as a future to-do item, since PRRTE’s .ini file support does not exist yet.