Introducing uap

Core aspects


  • Data is processed in temporary location. If and only if ALL involved processes exited graceful, the output files are copied to the final output directory.
  • The final output directory names are suffixed with a hashtag which is based on the commands executed to generate the output data. Data is not easily overwritten and this helps to check for necessary recomputations.
  • Processing can be aborted and continued from the command line at any time. Failures during data processing do not lead to unstable state of analysis.
  • Errors are reported as early as possible, fail-fast. Tools are checked for availability, and the entire processing pipeline is calculated in advance before jobs are being started or submitted to a cluster.


  • Steps and files are defined in a directed acyclic graph (DAG). The DAG defines dependencies between in- and output files.
  • Prior to any execution the dependencies between files are calculated. If a file is newer or an option for a calculation has changed all dependent files are marked for recalculation.


  • Comprehensive annotations are written to the output directories. They allow for later investigation of errors or review of executed commands. They contain also versions of used tool, required runtime, memory and CPU usage, etc.


  • Single configuration file describes entire processing pipeline.
  • Single command-line tool interacts with the pipeline. It can be used to execute, monitor, and analyse the pipeline.

Software Design

uap is designed as a plugin architecture. The plugins are called steps because they resemble steps of the analysis.

Source and Processing Steps: Building Blocks of the Analysis

There are two different types of steps: source and processing steps. Source steps are used to include data from outside the destination path (see destination_path Section) into the analysis. Processing steps are blueprints that describe how to process input to output data. Processing steps describe what needs to be done on an abstract level. uap controls the ordered execution of the steps as defined in the analysis configuration file.

Runs: Atomic Units of the Analysis

Steps define runs which represent the concrete commands for a part of the analysis. You can think of steps as objects and runs as instances like in object-oriented programming. A run is an atomic unit of the analysis. It can only succeed or fail entirely. Typically a single run computes data of a single sample. Runs compute output files from input files and provide these output files to subsequent steps via so called connections.

Connections: Propagation of Data

Connections are like tubes that connect steps. A step can have any number of connections. Run have to assign output file(s) to each connection of the step. If a run can not assign files to a connection it has to define it as empty. Downstream steps can access the connections to get the information which run created which file. The names of the connections can be arbitrarily chosen. The name should not be just the file format of the contained files but a description of their content. For example an out/alignment can contain gzipped SAM and/or BAM files. That’s why the file type is often checked in steps and influences the issued commands or set parameters.

Analysis as Directed Acyclic Graph

The steps and connections are the building blocks of the analysis graph. Steps are the nodes and connections are the edges of the analysis graph. That graph has to be a directed acyclic graph (DAG). This implies that every step has one or more parent steps, which may in turn have parents themself. The analysis graph is not allowed to contain cycles. Steps without parents have to be source steps. They provide the initial input data, like for example FASTQ files with raw sequencing reads, genome sequences, genome annotations, etc..