What is a workflow?

Workflows describe which computational steps were taken to run an analysis.

Simple workflows

Let us assume that our analysis is run in two stages, firstly a data filtering stage and secondly a data plotting stage. A hypothetical example:

$ python ./code/mycode.py \
    < ./data/mydata.csv > ./workspace/mydata.tmp
$ python ./code/mycode.py --plot myparameter=myvalue \
    < ./workspace/mydata.tmp > ./results/myplot.png

Note how we call a given sequence of commands to produce our desired output plots. In order to capture this sequence of commands in a “runnable” or “actionable” manner, we can write a short shell script run.sh and make it parametrisable:

$ ./run.sh --myparameter myvalue

In this case you will want to use the Serial workflow engine of REANA. The engine permits to express the workflow as a sequence of commands:

    START
     |
     |
     V
+--------+
| filter |  <-- mydata.csv
+--------+
     |
     | mydata.tmp
     |
     V
+--------+
|  plot  |  <-- myparameter=myvalue
+--------+
     |
     | plot.png
     V
    STOP

Note that you can run different commands in different computing environments, but they must be run in a linear sequential manner.

The sequential workflow pattern will usually cover only simple computational workflow needs.

Complex workflows

For advanced workflow needs we may want to run certain commands in parallel in a sort of map-reduce fashion. There are many workflow systems that are dedicated to expressing complex computational schemata in a structured manner. REANA supports several, such as CWL and Yadage.

The workflow systems enable to express the computational steps in the form of Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) permitting advanced computational scenarios.

              START
               |
               |
        +------+----------+
       /       |           \
      /        V            \
+--------+  +--------+  +--------+
| filter |  | filter |  | filter |   <-- mydata
+--------+  +--------+  +--------+
        \       |       /
         \      |      /
          \     |     /
           \    |    /
            \   |   /
             \  |  /
              \ | /
            +-------+
            | merge |
            +-------+
                |
                | mydata.tmp
                |
                V
            +--------+
            |  plot  |  <-- myparameter=myvalue
            +--------+
                |
                | plot.png
                V
               STOP

You can take inspiration from the existing examples.