How to set up a shared cache for HuggingFace libraries

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I set up a shared cache for HuggingFace libraries like transformers and datasets. See the repository: To use it, create a shared directory which can be edited by all interested users and set the environment variable export HF_HOME="/huggingface".

The problem: duplicated model checkpoints and datasets

My lab members and I use a shared machine to run, among other things, large language model inference using the transformers and datasets libraries. HuggingFace libraries download the model weights or datasets, and the downloaded files can be very large (over 50GB). By default, the weights and datasets are downloaded to some folders under ~/.cache/huggingface/. Different users will download copies of the same models. This causes the storage requirements to grow much larger than what is needed.

How to set up a shared HF cache

In order to cut down the amount of storage used, I set up a shared directory /huggingface so users can all use the same folder to download their models and datasets. Users need only to set an environment variable using export HF_HOME="/huggingface", then the HF libraries will download all files to the shared folder.

Here’s the script I used:


# Create a group for permissions to the directory
sudo groupadd hf-users
sudo usermod -aG hf-users $USER

# Create shared directory and make it owned by the group
sudo mkdir --mode=u+rwx,g+rwxs,o-rwx /huggingface # Give the directory rwx for user and group, and make files the directory inherit these permissions
sudo chown $USER /huggingface/
sudo chgrp hf-users /huggingface/

# Add to .bashrc
cat <<EOF >> $HOME/.bashrc
export HF_HOME="/huggingface" # Download HF cache items to /huggingface
umask 002 # Give user and group rw/rwx by deefault

# Optional: join the group in this shell, or restart the shell
newgrp hf-users

Testing it out

The shared cache must be activated with these two commands. The script above adds these to your profile in ~/.bashrc.

export HF_HOME="/huggingface" # Download HF cache items to /huggingface
umask 002 # Give user and group rw/rwx by default

Here’s the script I used to test it out, running the same script on two different users at the same time:

# Dependencies:
# pip install transformers torch accelerate bitsandbytes

from transformers import AutoModelForCausalLM
from transformers import AutoTokenizer

# Do inference with Mistral-7B. Load the model weights ten times in a row to simulate loading the weights at the same time as another user.
for i in range(10):
    print("Loading model...")
    model = AutoModelForCausalLM.from_pretrained("mistralai/Mistral-7B-v0.1", device_map="auto", load_in_4bit=True)
    tokenizer = AutoTokenizer.from_pretrained("mistralai/Mistral-7B-v0.1", padding_side="left")
    model_inputs = tokenizer(["A list of colors: red, blue"], return_tensors="pt").to("cuda")
    print("Generating tokens...")
    generated_ids = model.generate(**model_inputs, do_sample=True, temperature=1.0, max_new_tokens=10)
    print(tokenizer.batch_decode(generated_ids, skip_special_tokens=True)[0])


The libraries include a file locking system to prevent concurrency issues from multiple users using the same files at the same time. When I tested it by trying to load the checkpoint with user B while downloading the checkpoint with user A, this gave me an error on user B like so, without interrupting user A:

PermissionError: [Errno 13] Permission denied: '/huggingface/hub/.locks/models--mistralai--Mistral-7B-v0.1/9742cb4764964155b7a5f35eefad651f590006091ddeb536863d6c5865cca1b9.lock