Checkpoint Feature


The checkpoint feature allows users to transparently save the state of containerized applications while they are executing and then restart them from the saved state.

This is valuable for use cases that need to minimize the impact of ephemeral environment failures, random hardware failures or job premption.


This feature is marked as experimental to allow flexibility as community feedback may warrant breaking changes to improve the overall usability for this feature set as it matures.

In order to enable checkpointing as a feature, the DMTCP project has been chosen as the basis for an integration. Apptainer injects an installation of DMTCP from the host into the container at container creation and uses it to wrap the launching of the container process. When launching a process, DMTCP will monitor the spawned application process and its children in order to fully checkpoint the state of the application when triggered.

For interested readers, more detailed information about the technology can be found in the publications listed on the DMTCP website.


Due to the architecture of DMTCP, there are a couple requirements that must be met to allow this integration to work correctly:

  • Applications that are the intended to be checkpointed must be dynamically linked.

  • dmtcp uses dladdr1() which is a GNU extension that requires glibc or glibc compatibility inside the container.

In addition to these requirements, the Apptainer integration with DMTCP requires that either:

  • The binaries and libraries required by DMTCP are within the user PATH and the ldconfig cache respectively.

  • The dmtcp-conf.yaml configuration file has been modified to contain the absolute paths of the listed binaries and libraries.

At time of release, the list of libraries and binaries in this configuration is appropriate for the latest master branch of DMTCP. It can be modified by the system administrator to add additional libraries if necessary. See the admin guide for more details.

DMTCP Installation

Installation instructions for DMTCP can be found on their git repository. In order to maximize the portability of the DMTCP build, we recommend using the --enable-static-libstdcxx configure option.

A build and install of DMTCP from source will generally place libraries at /usr/local/lib/dmtcp, which is not a standard path for the linker. You can configure your linker to find these libraries and update its cache with the following commands:

# echo /usr/local/lib/dmtcp > /etc/
# ldconfig

Verify that the libraries are in the cache by ensuring there is output from the following command:

$ ldconfig -p | grep dmtcp

The DMTCP project is currently working towards a 3.0 release. If you encounter issues using a 2.x installation of DMTCP, we recommend trying the tip of the master branch to see if the issue has been resolved in the code that will become the next release.


The following container (referred to as server.sif below) contains a simple http server that allows a variable to be read and written with GET and POST requests respectively. This is not typical of applications packaged by the Apptainer community, but gives us an easy way to check that application state has been successfully restored upon restart.

Bootstrap: docker
From: python:3.10-buster

    mkdir /app
    cat > /app/ <<EOF
import argparse
from http.server import BaseHTTPRequestHandler, HTTPServer

state = "0"

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description='Optional app description')
parser.add_argument('port', type=int, help='A required integer port argument')
args = parser.parse_args()

class handler(BaseHTTPRequestHandler):
    def do_GET(self):

        self.wfile.write(bytes(state, "utf8"))
    def do_POST(self):

        global state
        state ="utf8")
        self.wfile.write(bytes(state, "utf8"))

with HTTPServer(('', args.port), handler) as server:

    python3 /app/ $@

We can build this container using:

$ apptainer build server.sif server.def

First things first, we need to create a checkpoint using the checkpoint command group. This initializes a location in your user home directory for Apptainer to store state related to DMTCP and the checkpoint images it will generate.

$ apptainer checkpoint create example-checkpoint
INFO:    Checkpoint "example-checkpoint" created.

Now we can start an instance of our application with the --dmtcp-launch flag naming the checkpoint we want to use to store state for this instance.

$ apptainer instance start --dmtcp-launch example-checkpoint server.sif server 8888 # this last arg is the port the server will listen to.
INFO:    instance started successfully

Once we have our application up and running, we can curl against it and read the state of a variable on the server.

$ curl localhost:8888; echo

We can see that it is set to 0 by default when this application is started normally. We can now update the state of the server from 0 to 1 with the following POST request:

$ curl -X POST localhost:8888 -d '1'; echo
$ curl localhost:8888; echo

Now that variable on our server is in a new state, 1, we can use the checkpoint instance command and reference the instance via the instance:// URI format:

$ apptainer checkpoint instance server
INFO:    Using checkpoint "example-checkpoint"

Now that we have checkpointed the state of our application, we can safely stop the instance:

$ apptainer instance stop server
INFO:    Stopping server instance of /home/ian/server.sif (PID=209072)

We can restart our server and restore its state by starting a new instance using the --dmtcp-restart flag and specifying the checkpoint to be used to restore our application’s state:

$ apptainer instance start --dmtcp-restart example-checkpoint server.sif restarted-server 8888
INFO:    instance started successfully

And now we can verify the variable on the server has been properly restored to a value of 1, instead of the default of 0:

$ curl localhost:8888; echo

Finally, we can stop our instance running our restored application and delete our checkpoint if we no longer need it to restart our application from this state:

$ apptainer instance stop restarted-server
INFO:    Stopping restarted-server instance of /home/ian/server.sif (PID=247679)
$ apptainer checkpoint delete example-checkpoint
INFO:    Checkpoint "example-checkpoint" deleted.