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Containers provide a stable fixed environment for your software that greatly reduces the dependency on any details of NERSC's software stack while retaining and, in some cases, improving performance.

If your application depends on MPI, then NERSC recommends installing MPICH inside the container from source (i.e. not from apt-get) with shared libraries. This allows your software to use the ABI-compatible Cray MPICH which has been optimized for the Perlmutter network.

Users are welcome and encouraged to use containers to run their software on NERSC systems. To facilitate this, NERSC provides various container technologies.


podman-hpc, an adaptation of Podman for HPC use-cases, is available on Perlmutter and offers several advantages over the Shifter tool.


Shifter is a NERSC-developed tool which allows users to run images on NERSC systems such as Perlmutter.

NERSC offers a private image registry where users can store images. We offer information about and best practices for using the registry.