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Installation with Spack (Advanced)

Spack.pm is "A flexible package manager supporting multiple versions, configurations, platforms, and compilers."

A community of Spack.pm users and developers contributes to development of package configurations for a range of platforms, including macOS and Linux. This creates a consistent build setup for supported scientific packages.

MoFEM can be deployed and developed using Spack.pm, which is the recommended way of installation. It should be noted that Spack.pm compiles packages from sources, pre-compiled binaries are not available. If you have any problems, feedback or would like to suggest corrections, please email to mofem-group@googlegroups.com.

Installation using scripts

The remainder of this article presents a step-by-step guidance with comments/explanations on how to install MoFEM using Spack on different platforms (Linux, macOS, HPC). However, those who prefer to automate the process of the installation can use the following scripts for different purposes:

You should copy the script to the directory where MoFEM will be installed and run it from the terminal, for example:

Running the scripts may require user password for sudo privileges.


The installation of MoFEM requires git.

System requirements: minimum 8GB RAM. On Linux ensure this RAM is free.


Install the following packages:

apt-get update \
&& apt-get install -y --no-install-recommends \
build-essential \
ca-certificates \
coreutils \
environment-modules \
python3-distutils \
gfortran \
curl \
git \
cmake \


Xcode contains required compilers for macOS. The latest known working version of Xcode is 13.3 with clang 13.1.6; there may be issues with future/different versions.

You can install the latest version of Xcode for your macOS through App Store, or, alternatively, you can see Apple's Xcode download page (Apple login required) for other versions.

Ensure that Xcode command-line tools are installed by running:

xcode-select --install
sudo xcodebuild -license accept

Additional packages may be required - install homebrew package manager:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"

Recent releases of macOS stopped shipping a Fortran compiler and therefore require Mixed Toolchains. The installation of gfortran through homebrew is one way of solving this:

brew install gcc

Note that gfortran if part of GCC.

Spack setup

Create mofem_install directory:

mkdir -p $HOME/mofem_install
cd $HOME/mofem_install

Retrieve Spack for MoFEM:

git clone -b master https://bitbucket.org/mofem/mofem-spack.git spack

Initialise Spack's environment variables:

. spack/share/spack/setup-env.sh

Spack's environment variables will be lost when the terminal session is closed. Consider adding the previous command to your .bash_profile or .bashrc, e.g.:

echo ". $HOME/spack/share/spack/setup-env.sh" >> ~/.bash_profile

If you are using a newer macOS, you might need to add config to .zshrc, e.g.:

echo ". $HOME/spack/share/spack/setup-env.sh" >> ~/.zshrc

Finally, find already installed compilers and external packages:

spack compiler find
spack external find

Note that there are further instructions on Spack usage and configuration.

User only

The first time installation of MoFEM takes considerable time (hours). Spack fetches and compiles MoFEM's dependencies from source and this includes several large packages.

Those seeking to develop MoFEM should see developer's instructions.

Install basic users module

MoFEM's basic users module consist of tools for solving a range of common problems, from elasticity to the Poisson equation. To install them run the following command:

spack install mofem-users-modules

To access the installed users modules, create an um_view directory. This should be created in an appropriate directory. Then you can run:

spack view --verbose symlink -i um_view mofem-users-modules

This filesystem view is a single directory tree that is the union of the directory hierarchies of a number of installed packages; it is similar to the directory hierarchy that might exist under /usr/local. The files of the view's installed MoFEM packages are brought into the view by symbolic or hard links, referencing the original Spack installation. Different 'views' can be created depending on the MoFEM version you wish to access. To make the new 'view' visible from any directory, add its bin directory to your PATH, e.g.:

export PATH=$PWD/um_view/bin:$PATH

Consider also adding this command to your .bash_profile or .bashrc, or .zshrc, e.g.:

echo "export PATH=$PWD/um_view/bin:\$PATH" >> ~/.bash_profile

Install additional users modules

MoFEM can be extended by adding user modules. More modules are available as extensions in Spack. This will show available extensions:

spack extensions mofem-cephas

The extensions can be installed using spack install <extension>. For example, the fracture module can be installed by:

spack install mofem-fracture-module
cd $HOME
spack view --verbose symlink -i um_view mofem-cephas
spack activate -v um_view mofem-fracture-module

or the minimal surface equation tutorial module:

spack install mofem-minimal-surface-equation
spack activate -v um_view mofem-minimal-surface-equation
Not all MoFEM's modules have been added to Spack. If your module is not yet there, you can install manually by cloning the appropriate users module.

Running tests

You can automatically run tests after installing a package, for example:

spack install --test=root -j 4 mofem-cephas
spack install --test=root -j 4 mofem-users-modules
spack install --test=root -j 4 mofem-fracture-module


MoFEM can be developed in several different ways, here you can find step-by-step installation instructions for core and user modules developers:

  1. Install core library
  2. Install users modules

The developer installation requires knowing more about how Spack works. See Spack usage and configuration before proceeding with the installation. In particular, the instructions below will use so-called specs to obtain the desired build configuration, see Spack manual page for more details. For example, the default Spack specifier for the build type is RelWithDebInfo, however keep in mind that two other build types can be specified as build_type=Release or build_type=Debug, see also Change the build_type.

You can skip the first installation step and jump to second if you are not going to be the core MoFEM developer. However, to avoid having multiple installation paths, and potential bugs which are difficult to reproduce, we recommend following installation step 1 and step 2.

1. Core libraries

If you are going to develop MoFEM's core library, it means that you are a core developer and you can install MoFEM directly from the source.

Create mofem_install folder in the home directory and clone MoFEM repository:

mkdir $HOME/mofem_install
cd $HOME/mofem_install
git clone \
-b develop \
https://bitbucket.org/likask/mofem-cephas.git mofem-cephas

and kick-start installation of the core library. First install all dependencies:

spack install --only dependencies mofem-cephas ^petsc+X ^boost+python+numpy

and then core MoFEM library:

spack dev-build -j4 \
--source-path $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas \
--keep-prefix \
mofem-cephas@develop+adol-c~copy_user_modules+docker~ipo+med+mgis~shared+slepc+tetgen \
build_type=Release install_id=0 ^petsc+X ^boost+python+numpy

Note that here another specification of the build configuration (spec) was set as ~copy_user_modules which is equivalent to copy_user_modules=False.

If installation is successfully, by executing

spack find -lv mofem-cephas

you should see something similar to

-- linux-ubuntu20.04-x86_64 / gcc@9.4.0 -------------------------
c4fmrqz mofem-cephas@develop+adol-c~copy_user_modules+docker~ipo+med+mgis~shared+slepc+tetgen build_system=cmake build_type=Release dev_path=/mofem_install/mofem-cephas generator=make install_id=0
==> 1 installed packages

Furthermore, in the directory $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas you will find build directory core-build-WithDebugInfo-vhv7opa. Note that the hash in the name of the directory is matching the one in first column in the list printed by executing spack find -lv mofem-cephas.

You can now start to develop code in the MoFEM core library. If you change directory to

cd $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/core-build-Release*

you can compile, test and install:

make -j4
ctest -D Experimental
make install

i.e. do typical developer work.

Moreover, you can install simultaneously debugging version of code, as follows:

spack dev-build -j4 \
--source-path $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas \
--keep-prefix \
mofem-cephas@develop+adol-c~copy_user_modules+docker~ipo+med+mgis~shared+slepc+tetgen \
build_type=Debug install_id=0 ^petsc+X ^boost+python+numpy
By default spack dev-build will try to use all available processor slots to run make in parallel. To set a desired number of parallel jobs, you can use the parameter -j NP, where NP is number of parallel processes to be used. Alternatively, you can edit Spack settings as discussed below in the section Basic settings in config.yaml
You can also do partial install, before of after any installation phase, using command line option -b BEFORE or -u UNTIL. For example, if you would like to investigate build issues, you can do
spack dev-build \
-b build \
--source-path $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas \
--keep-prefix \
mofem-cephas@develop+adol-c~copy_user_modules+docker~ipo+med+mgis~shared+slepc+tetgen \
build_type=RelWithDebInfo install_id=0 ^petsc+X ^boost+python+numpy
Note that installation at that point is partial.

2. Install users modules

Clone users modules repository:

mkdir $HOME/mofem_install
cd $HOME/mofem_install
git clone \
-b develop \
https://likask@bitbucket.org/mofem/users-modules-cephas.git \

For example, if you want to install users modules against core library which was built with the specification build_type=RelWithDebInfo, pick the corresponding row and copy to clipboard the hash (pa3httg). Next, change the directory:

cd $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules

and install users modules:

export hash=$(spack find -v mofem-cephas@develop build_type=Release | grep mofem-cephas@develop)
spack dev-build \
--test root \
--source-path $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules \
mofem-users-modules@develop build_type=Release \
^$hash ^petsc+X ^boost+python+numpy

In the spack dev-build command of the snippet above ^ is a dependency spec, i.e. a descriptor defining the dependency of the package that we are currently installing on another package (in this case, a particular version of the core library).

Once installation is successfully, you can execute

spack find -lv mofem-users-modules

and as result you will get something similar to:

-- linux-ubuntu20.04-x86_64 / gcc@9.4.0 -------------------------
mofem-users-modules@lukasz+basic_fe+basic_tutorials+build_tut_adv0+build_tut_adv1+build_tut_adv2+build_tut_clx0+build_tut_cor0to1+build_tut_cor10+build_tut_cor2to5+build_tut_cor6+build_tut_cor7+build_tut_cor8+build_tut_cor9+build_tut_fun0+build_tut_fun1+build_tut_fun2+build_tut_max0+build_tut_max1+build_tut_mix0+build_tut_mix1+build_tut_msh1+build_tut_msh2+build_tut_scl0+build_tut_scl1+build_tut_scl10+build_tut_scl11+build_tut_scl2+build_tut_scl3+build_tut_scl4+build_tut_scl5+build_tut_scl6+build_tut_scl7+build_tut_scl8+build_tut_scl9+build_tut_vec0+build_tut_vec1+build_tut_vec2+build_tut_vec3+build_tut_vec4+build_tut_vec5+build_tut_vec6+copy_user_modules+docker~ipo~mgis~shared build_system=cmake build_type=RelWithDebInfo dev_path=/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules generator=make install_id=0
==> 1 installed packages

Also, you will find new directory $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules/um-build-WithDebugInfo-c6ts56b, which is the build directory for a particular version of mofem-users-modules. There you can do typical developer work:

cd $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules/um-build-WithDebugInfo-c6ts56b
make -j4
make install

Later you can add other modules to that directory if needed.

You can do partial install, before of after some installation phase, using command line option -b BEFORE or -u UNTIL, for example if you like to investigate build issues, you can do
export hash=$(spack find -v mofem-cephas@develop build_type=Debug | grep mofem-cephas@develop)
spack dev-build \
-b build \
--test root \
--source-path $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules \
mofem-users-modules@develop build_type=Debug \
^$hash ^petsc+X ^boost+python+numpy

Installation on specific servers

Server Buckethead


Buckethead is a Linux cluster running CentOS 7. More information about Buckethead you will find here.

Load cluster modules:

module load gcc/9.3.0
module load mpi/openmpi/3.1.6/gcc-9.3.0
module load gridengine

It is a good idea to put the above lines into your .bash_profile or .bashrc file.

Clone spack:

git clone -b master https://bitbucket.org/mofem/mofem-spack.git spack

and initialise Spack's environment variables (should also be placed into .bash_profile or .bashrc):

. spack/share/spack/setup-env.sh

Setup compiler and external packages

First, find available compilers and external packages:

spack compiler find
spack external find

Edit file $HOME/.spack/linux/compilers.yaml and ensure it includes the following:

- compiler:
spec: gcc@9.3.0
cc: /software/compilers/gcc/9.3.0/bin/gcc
cxx: /software/compilers/gcc/9.3.0/bin/g++
f77: /software/compilers/gcc/9.3.0/bin/gfortran
fc: /software/compilers/gcc/9.3.0/bin/gfortran
flags: {}
operating_system: centos7
target: x86_64
modules: []
environment: {}
- /software/compilers/gcc/9.3.0/lib64

Note that most of the file was created by the command

spack compiler find

however you have to put the line

- /software/compilers/gcc/9.3.0/lib64

which enables linking std lib c++ libraries.

Finally, edit the file $HOME/.spack/packages.yaml and ensure that it has information only about the openmpi library. Information about all other packages should be deleted, i.e. the file should look as follows:

- spec: openmpi@3.1.6%gcc@9.3.0~cuda~cxx~cxx_exceptions~java~memchecker+pmi+pmix~sqlite3~static~thread_multiple~wrapper-rpath
prefix: /software/mpi/openmpi/3.1.6/gcc-9.3.0

Installing dependencies

At this point, we can follow the standard installation procedure (with a few adjustments). To install dependencies run the following:

spack install -j4 --only dependencies mofem-cephas%gcc@9.3.0 ^petsc+X ^openmpi@3.1.6%gcc@9.3.0 ^slepc~arpack

Once completed, check the installed packages by running

spack find -p

Note that the path for the openmpi library should differ from all other packages: /software/mpi/openmpi/3.1.6/gcc-9.3.0

User installation

If you would like to have user installation, run the following command:

spack install mofem-users-modules

Now you can create a symlink to the install directory including dependent libraries using commands below:

spack view symlink -i um_view mofem-cephas
spack activate -v um_view mofem-users-modules

Developer installation

Alternatively, you may want to follow the developer installation, which will have a few differences from the Developer installation discussed above.

Create mofem_install folder in the $HOME directory and clone MoFEM repository:

mkdir $HOME/mofem_install
cd $HOME/mofem_install
git clone \
-b develop \
https://bitbucket.org/likask/mofem-cephas.git \
git clone \
-b develop \
https://likask@bitbucket.org/mofem/users-modules-cephas.git \

Kick-start installation of the core library:

spack dev-build -j4 \
--source-path $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas \
--keep-prefix \
--test root \
mofem-cephas@develop~copy_user_modules ^petsc+X ^openmpi@3.1.6%gcc@9.3.0 ^slepc~arpack

If installation is successful, by executing

spack find -lv mofem-cephas

you should see something similar to

==> 1 installed package
-- linux-centos7-zen / gcc@9.3.0 --------------------------------
3prnmyj mofem-cephas@develop+adol-c~copy_user_modules~docker~ipo+med~shared+slepc+tetgen build_type=RelWithDebInfo dev_path=/home/staff/as601x/mofem_install/mofem-cephas install_id=0

Next, change the directory:

cd $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules

and install users modules specifying the dependency on the previously installed core library using the:

export hash=$(spack find -v mofem-cephas@develop | grep mofem-cephas@develop)
spack dev-build -j4 \
--test root \
--source-path $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules \
mofem-users-modules@develop build_type=RelWithDebInfo \
^$hash ^petsc+X ^openmpi@3.1.6%gcc@9.3.0 ^slepc~arpack

Once installation is successfully, you will find a new directory, e.g. $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules/um-build-RelWithDebInfo-646hxk7, which is the build directory for a particular version of mofem-users-modules. There you can do typical developer work:

cd $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas/mofem/users_modules/um-build-WithDebugInfo-646hxk7
make -j4
make install

Later you can add other modules to that directory if needed.

Job file

Create a script file with content as below and name it, for example, job_spack

#! /bin/bash
# The job's name
#$ -N MoFEM
# The queue in which to run the job
#$ -q gcec.q
# File to which standard error should be directed
#$ -e ./stdout_job_$JOB_ID
# File to which standard output should be directed
#$ -o ./stderr_job_$JOB_ID
# E-mail address to which status updates should be sent
# N.B.: in an array job, a separate e-mail will be sent for each task!
#$ -M your.email@glasgow.ac.uk
# Events on which to send a status update
#$ -m beas
# Request for 1.0 GB of memory per task (needed on Miffy and Dusty)
#$ -l mem_tokens=1.0G
#$ -pe mpi 2 # where N is the number of processors required
# List of commands which do the actual work
echo "$NSLOTS received"
# Load compiler
module load gcc/9.3.0
module load mpi/openmpi/3.1.6/gcc-9.3.0
# List of commands which do the actual work
cd $HOME/um_view/elasticity
mpirun -np $NSLOTS \
./elasticity \
-my_file LShape.h5m \
-ksp_type gmres -pc_type lu \
-pc_factor_mat_solver_type mumps \
-ksp_monitor \
-my_order 2 2>&1 | tee log

and run it as follows:

qsub job_spack

Results of the analysis are located in $HOME/um_view/elasticity.

Spack usage and configuration

Setting build type and compiler flags

The build type affects performance and the availability of debugging symbols. Select an appropriate type. With spack you can set the build_type during installation:

  • Release
  • Debug
  • RelWithDebInfo

By default Spack will use RelWithDebInfo.

For example:

spack install mofem-cephas build_type=Debug

Or when using spack dev-build for developers:

spack dev-build \
--source-path $HOME/mofem_install/mofem-cephas \
--keep-prefix \
--test root \
mofem-cephas@develop~copy_user_modules build_type=Debug ^petsc+X

An example compiler flag:

spack install mofem-cephas cppflags="-march=native -O3"

MoFEM package versions

Spack is capable of managing multiple versions of MoFEM. It stores each version under a unique ID. The following command displays installed MoFEM packages with their unique ID, build type and other info:

spack find -lvd | grep mofem

An example output:

yk45ivx mofem-cephas@develop+adol-c build_type=Debug ~copy_user_modules+med~slepc+tetgen
mco5jh5 mofem-cephas@develop+adol-c build_type=RelWithDebInfo ~copy_user_modules+med~slepc+tetgen
7f4u3sj mofem-cephas@develop+adol-c build_type=Release ~copy_user_modules+med~slepc+tetgen
jtolxoh mofem-users-modules@develop build_type=Debug ~copy_user_modules
yk45ivx ^mofem-cephas@develop+adol-c build_type=Debug ~copy_user_modules+med~slepc+tetgen

Preceding the name of the package is its ID. e.g. yk45ivx. This is important when specifying which package version you wish to use.

Adding MoFEM extension to Spack

Look at Spack creation tutorial and Spack Package Build Systems. You can look how we have created packages for fracture module or minimal-surface-equation, located in $HOME/spack/var/spack/repos/builtin/packages/mofem-fracture-module and $HOME/spack/var/spack/repos/builtin/packages/mofem-minimal-surface-equation. You can open package file:

spack edit mofem-minimal-surface-equation

To create your package for the user module, you have to

  • create directory following naming convention
  • copy existing mofem user module package
  • create package class following naming convention
  • modify file changing names and locations appropriately for your user module

Basic settings in config.yaml

Spack's basic configuration options are set in config.yaml. You can see the default settings in $HOME/.spack/config.yaml, for example, you can set the default number of jobs to use when running make in parallel. If set to 4, for example, spack install will run make -j4. This can be done by adding line to config.yaml. Configuration file should look like this:

build_jobs: 4

For more details see here.


Downloading mirror with prerequisites

You can download mirror with all necessary packages from MoFEM repository and untar or unzip to directory:

mkdir -p mofem_mirror &&
curl -s -L http://mofem.eng.gla.ac.uk/downloads/mirror_v0.16.tar.gz \
| tar xzC $PWD/mofem_mirror --strip 1

Note that packages are expanded to directory mofem_mirror, and mirror is made for MoFEM version v0.16.0.

Once mirror is downloaded, you can add it to your spack:

spack mirror add mofem_mirror $PWD/mofem_mirror

Making your own mirror

Some sites may not have access to the internet for fetching packages. These sites will need a local repository of tarballs from which they can get their files. Spack has support for this with mirrors. Look to Spack documentation to learn more about mirrors here. If you run

spack mirror create --directory mofem-fracture-module --dependencies mofem-fracture-module

as a result a directory is created with are prerequisites needed for Spack installation of mofem-fracture-module. You can now move that directory to your secure server with the spack package.

On a secure server, you add mirror directory to Spack, for example:

spack mirror add local_filesystem /$HOME/spack-mirror-2018-07-21

and with that at hand kick-start installation process described above.


Installation on MAC OS X Montery (XCode 13.4.1)

Not all packages can be installed with spack currentlt. Temprorary solution utill bigs are fixed in other packages is installation following packages with homebrew

brew install openblas
brew install openmpi

Then spack command has to be called

spack external find

Command abouve will find homebrew installation for openmpi. Installation for openblas has to be added by editing file $HOME/.spack/packages.yaml, and adding at the end

version: [0.3.20]
buildable: false
- spec: openblas@0.3.20%apple-clang@13.1.6 arch=darwin-monterey-m1
prefix: /opt/homebrew/opt/openblas

How to get packages installed today?

Run command:

spack find -p -L --start-date `date +%F`

and you will get:

-- darwin-elcapitan-x86_64 / clang@7.3.0-apple ------------------
ugi2gm7 mofem-cephas@develop /spack/opt/spack/darwin-elcapitan-x86_64/clang-7.3.0-apple/mofem-cephas-develop-ugi2gm7lydyjwmiwneefhxq7ahvpnuzc
gu4uheh mofem-users-modules@develop /spack/opt/spack/darwin-elcapitan-x86_64/clang-7.3.0-apple/mofem-users-modules-develop-gu4uhehai3edtqow7kivuxgpw5lmvbxz

How to find packages that were only installed today?

Run command:

ls -lhd `spack find -lp | grep mofem | awk '\''{print $3}'\''`


If you are experiencing any problems with this installation, please contact us by mofem-group@googlegroups.com.