Running the cluster

Now that you have a cluster which is up and running, it’s worth knowing what you can do with it.

Slurm jobs

A full Slurm tutorial is outside of the scope of this document but it’s configured in a fairly standard way. By default there’s one single partition called compute which contains all the compute nodes.

A simple first Slurm script, test.slm, could look like:

#! /bin/bash

srun -l hostname

which you could run with:

[matt@mgmt ~]$ sbatch test.slm

To check that Slurm has started the node you need, you can run sinfo:

[matt@mgmt ~]$ sinfo
compute*     up   infinite      1 alloc# vm-standard2-1-ad1-0001

where the state being alloc# means that the node has been allocated to a job and the # means that it is currently in the process of being turned on.

Eventually, once the node has started, the state will change to alloc:

[matt@mgmt ~]$ sinfo
compute*     up   infinite      1  alloc vm-standard2-1-ad1-0001

and then once the job has finished the state will move to idle:

[matt@mgmt ~]$ sinfo
compute*     up   infinite      1   idle vm-standard2-1-ad1-0001

If you want more control over the size of your job etc., then you can set those flags in the job script:

#! /bin/bash

#SBATCH --job-name=test
#SBATCH --nodes=1
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=2
#SBATCH --cpus-per-task=1
#SBATCH --time=10:00

srun -l hostname

Slurm elastic scaling

Slurm is configured to use its elastic computing mode. This allows Slurm to automatically terminate any nodes which are not currently being used for running jobs and create any nodes which are needed for running jobs. This is particularly useful in the cloud as a node which has been terminated will not be charged for.

Slurm does this by calling a script /usr/local/bin/startnode as the slurm user. If necessary, you can call this yourself from the opc user like:

[opc@mgmt ~]$ sudo scontrol update NodeName=vm-standard2-1-ad1-0001 State=POWER_UP

to turn on the node vm-standard2-1-ad1-0001.

You should never have to do anything to explicitly shut down the cluster, it will automatically terminate all nodes which are not in use after a timeout. The management node will always stay running which is why it’s worth only using a relatively cheap VM for it.

The rate at which Slurm shuts down is managed in /mnt/shared/etc/slurm/slurm.conf by the SuspendTime parameter. See the slurm.conf documentation for more details.

Cluster shell

A common task is to want to run commands across all nodes in a cluster. By default you have access to clustershell. Read the documentation there to get details of how to use the tool.

The gist is that you give it a hostname or a group and a command to run. You can see a list of the available groups with cluset:

[opc@mgmt ~]$ cluset --list-all

You can then run a command with clush:

[opc@mgmt ~]$ clush -w @compute uname -r
vm-standard2-1-ad1-0001: 4.14.35-1844.2.5.el7uek.x86_64
vm-standard2-1-ad3-0001: 4.14.35-1844.2.5.el7uek.x86_64
vm-standard2-2-ad3-0001: 4.14.35-1844.2.5.el7uek.x86_64
vm-standard2-2-ad2-0001: 4.14.35-1844.2.5.el7uek.x86_64
vm-standard2-1-ad2-0001: 4.14.35-1844.2.5.el7uek.x86_64

You can combine the output from different nodes using the -b flag:

[opc@mgmt ~]$ clush -w @compute -b uname -r
vm-standard2-[1-2]-ad3-0001,vm-standard2-1-ad[1-2]-0001,vm-standard2-2-ad2-0001 (5)

Bear in mind that since the nodes are created afresh each time they are started, any changes you make to a running node will not be persisted. It will also not be able to run on any nodes that are not currently running.

Installing software on your cluster

To make software available across your cluster, the best way is to install it onto the shared filesystem at /mnt/shared. Make sure that all the dependencies for it are available either on the shared filesystem or in the base image you’re using. i.e. don’t use yum install to provide dependencies.

Consider using a tool like EasyBuild or Spack to manage your software stack.


The cluster automatically collects data from all the nodes and makes them available in a web dashboard.

It is available at the IP address of your management node on port 3000. Point your browser at http://your.mgmt.ip.address:3000 and log in with the username admin. The password for the dashboard can be found by running:

[opc@mgmt ~]$ sudo get_secrets

Once you are logged in, you can find a dashboard showing the state of nodes by clicking on “Home ▾” and selecting “Slurm”.

Reporting issues

Please report questions and problems to Cluster in the Cloud GitHub Issues.

You can gather diagnostic information from your cluster which might help pinpoint problems by running

[opc@mgmt ~]$ sudo sosreport --only-plugins citc && sudo chown $USER /var/tmp/sosreport*

For case id put your GitHub username (if you have one). This will generate a tar.xz file that can be downloaded and then attached to, for example, a GitHub issue.

Destroying the whole cluster


Please bear in mind that this will also destroy your file system which contains your user’s home area and any data stored on the cluster.

When you’ve completely finished with the cluster, you can destroy it using Terraform.

$ terraform destroy google


$ terraform destroy oracle

This command will ask for confirmation before destroying anything but be sure to read the list of things it’s going to terminate to check that it’s doing the right thing. It will also attempt to terminate any running compute nodes you still have but make sure to check the web interface afterwards.