Tales from the underfunded cousin of DevOps, while trying to get research done.

Update 2015-07-21 10:28 UTC: It seems a bit less magic is needed in the wrapper script.


After a longer discussion about the pros and cons of Docker at this year's BOSC, and a bit of complaining about the complexities of actually running docker in a recent blog post, I have decided to try this out for antiSMASH.

Setup & Install

As this is a guide for running antiSMASH in Docker, make sure to install Docker first. Because Docker needs a Linux kernel to run, this works fastest on a Linux host with a recent kernel, because then you can avoid the overhead of a virtual machine. antiSMASH needs at least 8 GB of RAM, so make sure to provide that amount if you go with a virtual machine.

To "install" antiSMASH, grab the wrapper shell script off our Bitbucket repository and put it into your path as an executable, like so:

mkdir ~/bin  # only needed if you don't have a bin directory in your $HOME
curl https://bitbucket.org/antismash/docker/raw/HEAD/standalone/run_antismash > ~/bin/run_antismash
chmod a+x ~/bin/run_antismash

If you had to create your ~/bin directory, you might want to log off and on again to get ~/bin added to your path.

To check if everything works as expected, try running run_antismash . . --version, you should see the antiSMASH version being printed, e.g. antiSMASH 3.0.3. On the first run of the script, this might take a while as docker will need to download the container, and that's a couple of GB in size. If you get an error like run_antismash: command not found, you need to make sure the run_antismash script is in your path and executable. I'll explain why you need to add the . . before the --version next.

Running antiSMASH

The run_antismash wrapper script takes a number of parameters that will be passed to antiSMASH after some further processing. Basically, you need to pass the input file and the output directory, so both can be added to the container. This is required, or the antiSMASH program running inside of the container wouldn't be able to see the input file or write the output file anywhere you can retrieve it. Additionally, any further parameters will be passed to antiSMASH unchanged. So to recap, running antiSMASH works like this:

run_antismash /my/input/file.gbk /my/antismash/results --parameters --for --antismash

Example: Get the antiSMASH version

The actual antiSMASH script doesn't need any input or output files to just print the version, but the wrapper script will get sad if you don't provide those. So, the way to get the antiSMASH version is:

run_antismash . . --version

Example: List available command line options

Using the same trick as previously, we can get antisMASH to print available command line options.

run_antismash . . --help

Example: Run antiSMASH on Streptomyces coelicolor with KnownClusterBlast

And finally let's run some real antiSMASH job. My input file is on the /data drive, I want the result to go to my ~/as_results directory. As parameters, I'll just go with --knownclusterblast for now.

run_antismash /data/genomes/current/Bacteria/Streptomyces_coelicolor_A3_2/NC_003888.gbk ~/as_results --knownclusterblast

The output will be in ~/as_results/NC_003888.

Wrapping up

All in all, I think this is a pretty nice way to get your feet wet with antiSMASH, but I have a couple of things that I find a bit annoying about this solution:

  • Some funky dance in the in-container wrapper script is required to make the output be owned by the user calling the script. Update: see below
  • At the moment, the wrapper script doesn't allow to pass multiple input files.
  • You always need to pass input and output directories to the wrapper script.

Update 2015-07-21 10:28

As Paolo Di Tommaso points out, it is possible to specify the user the command within the container runs at with -u.

The Docker documentation on docker run seems to imply otherwise:

The default user within a container is root (id = 0), but if the developer created additional users, those are accessible too.

But you can just use -u $(id -u):$(id -g) in the docker run command to specify the current user's UID and GID, That works, and makes the wrapper script less magic.


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