IDUN tutorial from the perspective of a master’s student (2024 edition)

Author: Jarl Sondre Sæther

This document will contain information about useful techniques in IDUN. This document was initially created by Aurora Grefsrud, who delivered her master's thesis in the spring of 2021. In the spring of 2024, Jarl Sondre Sæther, who was writing his thesis at the time, expanded the document quite extensively, adding multiple sections as well as refining some of the existing parts.

The IDUN cluster is a high-performance computational resource provided by NTNU. Getting access to IDUN means that you have access to a cluster of powerful computers which provide both storage and computational resources in the form of computer cores and GPUs. Each computer is known as a node, and each node has several cores.

Accessing IDUN through the command line

You can access IDUN through Secure Shell (SHH), which provides a secure connection to the cluster. To get access, you either have to be on the NTNU network (e.g. by being on campus) or you have to be connected to it via VPN. Once you are connected to NTNU, you can access IDUN using the following command:

ssh <username>

This will ask you for your password, and in typical Unix fashion it will not display any of the characters that you enter. Press the <enter>key on your keyboard when you have finished typing your password. An example of this is:

$ ssh's password:

This will give you access to a login node, but be careful not to run your jobs on these nodes. If you have a job that you want to run, make sure to run it on a compute node. We will get back to how to do this.

Unix Shell Basics

Since IDUN is running on Linux, you will have to know a couple of unix commands to maneuver the cluster in a good way. Notice how some commands also have additional arguments that can be added, e.g. -la, which are called "flags".

Print Working Directory

The first command you will learn is called pwd, which is short for "print working directory". This is used to show where in the file system you are currently located. An example of the output of this command is:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 ~]$ pwd

This command will often be used to illustrate the other commands in this document.

List directories/files

To see the possible files in a given location/directory, you can type the ls command. An example of this is:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 cluster]$ pwd

[jssaethe@idun-login1 cluster]$ ls
apps  apps-r8  home  projects  shared  work

The -l flag will show the output as a list and the -a flag will show all files, since some files are hidden by default. An example of this is

[jssaethe@idun-login1 cluster]$ ls -la
total 264
drwxr-xr-x     9 root    root                 4096 Jan 16 10:47 .
dr-xr-xr-x.   20 root    root                  286 Dec 11 00:54 ..
drwxr-xr-x     5 root    root                 4096 Jan 12 15:03 apps
drwxr-xr-x     5 pavlokh root                 4096 Dec 11 00:47 apps-r8
drwxr-xr-x  1411 root    root               102400 Jan 16 18:40 home
drwxr-xr-x    26 root    root                 4096 Dec 10 16:51 projects
drwsrwsr-x     5 root    itea_lille-support   4096 Sep 18 08:18 shared
drwxr-xr-x  1398 root    root               139264 Jan 17 10:23 work

Change directory

In order to change your location on the cluster, you can use the command cd, which is short for "change directory". An example of this is:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 cluster]$ pwd

[jssaethe@idun-login1 cluster]$ ls
apps  apps-r8  home  projects  shared  work

[jssaethe@idun-login1 cluster]$ cd home
[jssaethe@idun-login1 home]$ pwd

Show the content of a file

If you want to view the content of a file, you can type the command cat, which is short for "concatenate", followed by the name of the file you want to see. You cannot edit the file this way. An example of this is:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 tutorial]$ ls

[jssaethe@idun-login1 tutorial]$ cat test.txt
this is my test file

Edit a file in the terminal

If you want to edit a file in the terminal, then you can open a terminal text editor, i.e. an editor that works from the terminal. The two most prominent text editors that you will find are nano and vim, but if you don't have a lot of terminal experience then I would recommend nano. To open up this editor, use the command nano followed by the name of the file you want to open. An example of this is:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 tutorial]$ ls

[jssaethe@idun-login1 tutorial]$ nano test.txt

Adding permissions to execute a file

Sometimes you don't have the permission to execute a file in Linux, e.g. a script you have made. In this case, you can use the chmodcommand to add permissions to the file. If you want to add the permission to execute the file, use the flag +x. The command would then look like this:

chmod +x <name of your file>

Clear the terminal

If your terminal becomes cluttered, you can clear the terminal by typing the command clear or by pressing ctrl + l.

Searching through a file

You can search through a file using the grep command, followed by the string you are looking for and then the name of the file. This will scan through the file line by line and print any lines that contain the string you searched for. An example of running this command is:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 ~]$ cat test.txt
This is my test file
I am a computer science student
I like algorithms
Do you like computer science?

[jssaethe@idun-login1 ~]$ grep computer test.txt
I am a computer science student
Do you like computer science?

Chaining shell commands with redirects and pipes

If you want to use your shell in a more efficient manner, you might sometimes want to use the pipe command, |, or the redirect commands, > and <. The pipe is used to chain commands, e.g. ls and grep, which sends the output of ls to the input of grep, while the redirects are used for connecting the output and input of a file to the output and input of a command. This all depends on which redirect command you use. An example of a pipe can be:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 ~]$ squeue | grep jssaethe
          18915101      GPUQ sys/dash jssaethe  R    2:30:38      1 idun-04-04

where I ask IDUN for the entire queue and then I filter the output based on whether it contains my username, "jssaethe". You can see that the only output I get is the one process with my name. This is obviously a silly example, because I could have just used -u jssaethe to achieve the same thing, but this would also work if you were looking for a particular job_name. Thus it highlights the functionality well.

An example of using redirects can be:

cat old_slurm_script.slurm > new_slurm_script.slurm

This command will essentially copy the contents of old_slurm_script.slurm and put it into the file new_slurm_script.slurm. If the new script file does not exist, it will be created. This can be very handy if you want a similar script but only want to change a few details.

An example of using the other redirect is:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 ~]$ cat
my_variable  = input()
print("Received the following input:")

[jssaethe@idun-login1 ~]$ cat input.txt
This is my input!

[jssaethe@idun-login1 ~]$ python < input.txt
Received the following input:
This is my input!

Here you can see that I am using the contents of input.txt as an input to the python script, which then prints the input it received. It is a rather silly script, but it shows some very powerful tools you can use to automate your workflow quite considerably. The situation I use this in most often is when I want to test my code with a particular set of inputs. Then I will store my inputs in the input.txt file, so that I don't have to enter them every time I want to test my algorithm.

Loading python versions and other modules

In order to load python, you need to use the module system on IDUN. First, you can remove all previously loaded modules for your session using the command

module purge

Now, you can look through the different modules that exist by typing

module avail

If you want an overview that is chunked by type of module, you can type

module spider

If you want more information about a specific module, you can type

module spider <module name>

For example, if you would like more information about the different pytorch modules, then you can type

module spider pytorch

The most common python module is Anaconda3. use module spider Anaconda3 to find the version you want to use and then load it using module load, e.g.

module load Anaconda3/2023.09-0

You can check the the installed Python packages and install new packages using pip:

# shows installed packages and their version numbers
pip list

# install new package
pip install package_name --user

# install package with specific version number X.X
pip install package_name==X.X --user

Running jobs

When you want to run your large project on the cluster you must submit it to SLURM as a job. It is then queued along with other sumbitted jobs, and will be run when the computer resources are available. You can get e-mail notifications for when the job is started, when it is completed or if it fails. More in depth documentation can be found at the Sigma2 webpage.

The first step is to create a SLURM job script. It is essentially a bash script with some extra information for SLURM. An example of a functioning

#SBATCH --account=<account>       # E.g. "ie-idi" if you belong to IE
#SBATCH --job-name=example_job
#SBATCH --time=0-00:15:00         # format: D-HH:MM:SS

#SBATCH --partition=GPUQ          # Asking for a GPU
#SBATCH --mem=16G                 # Asking for 16GB RAM
#SBATCH --nodes=1
#SBATCH --output=output.txt      # Specifying 'stdout'
#SBATCH --error=output.err        # Specifying 'stderr'

#SBATCH --mail-user=<email>
#SBATCH --mail-type=ALL

echo "Running from this directory: $SLURM_SUBMIT_DIR"
echo "Name of job: $SLURM_JOB_NAME"
echo "ID of job: $SLURM_JOB_ID"
echo "The job was run on these nodes: $SLURM_JOB_NODELIST"

module purge

# Running your python file
module load Anaconda/2020.07
python <path_to_pythonfile>.py

Let's break down this example. The first line, #!/bin/sh tells the computer that this is a bash script. The next lines are all commented out, but they are still read by SLURM and change the environment variables.

partitionWhether your script needs CPU or GPU.
accountThe billing account connected to running the script
timeThe amount of time allocated for your job. The task fails if your program runs for longer than this time limit.
nodesThe number of nodes.
ntasks-per-nodeThe number of tasks per node.
memThe amount of memory allocated for your job. The task fails if your program exceeds this limit.
job-nameThe name of the job.
outputThe file in which to save all printed outputs.
errorThe file in which to save all printed errors.
mail-userThe email to send notifications to.
mail-typeWhich emails to send.

Running your SLURM script

Once you have a script that you want to run, e.g. example_script.slurm, you can run the script by typing sbatch example_script.slurm. This will start your script. This is an example of what this looks like:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 jssaethe]$ sbatch example_script.slurm
Submitted batch job 18915035

Checking the SLURM queue

Once you have started your script, you can check whether it has started or not and/or how long it has been running by using the command squeue. This will show the entire queue. Therefore, if you only want to see your personal entries you can add the -u flag, followed by your username. An example is:

[jssaethe@idun-login1 jssaethe]$ squeue -u jssaethe
          18915029      GPUQ example_ jssaethe PD       0:00      1 (Priority)

Canceling your SLURM job

If you want to cancel your SLURM job, you can do this using the scancel command, followed by the JOBID of your job. Following the example above, you would type scancel 18915029 to stop the listed job.

Setting up GPUs to use with PyTorch

There are multiple ways of setting up the use of GPUs with PyTorch, but the method I find to be the easiest is to set up an Anaconda environment and then installing pytorch on it. Make sure to request a GPU if you would like to see if this worked, as if you try to run code on the login-nodes or a node without a GPU then it will obviously not work. You can perform this setup on a login-node, however. You should only have to do it once.

  1. Set up a conda environment: You can do this by loading the conda module and then creating your environment. You can find tutorials online showing how to create a conda environment.
  2. Activate your conda environment using conda activate <your environment>.
  3. Install PyTorch, as explained on the PyTorch website by selecting your PyTorch version, "Linux" as operating system, "Conda" as your package and "Python" as your language. Then you will get a command that looks something like this:conda install pytorch torchvision torchaudio pytorch-cuda=12.1 -c pytorch -c nvidia
  4. Set your device to GPU. I like doing this with the following command:device = torch.device("cuda" if torch.cuda.is_available() else "cpu") print(f"device: {device}")
  5. Make sure to move all your models and variables to the device.
  6. Now you can run your code on the IDUN GPUs!

It is also possible to set this up by loading the PyTorch Cuda module on IDUN, but I find the conda setup to be more consistent as you can activate your conda environment in your slurm files instead of setting up everything for each script you have.

Connect local Visual Studio Code to IDUN

It is possible to open a Visual Studio Code session on IDUN, allowing you to edit files directly on IDUN from a browser window. This, however, can be tedious as the experience can be quite buggy. Running the debugger is often problematic, the window often freezes and the interface is somewhat different from the desktop version. It is, however, possible to access IDUN directly from your local VSCode. This alleviates most of the problems you encounter and thus allows you to run notebooks and scripts in a much more seamless fashion. Also note that you have to be connected to the NTNU network for this to work. The steps to doing this are:

Step 1: Ask for resources

The first step is to ask IDUN for resources. This is done the same way you would start a browser session. You go to, login and ask for a "Visual Studio Code Server". Once you are given access to a node, you will get the following view under "Home/My Interactive Sessions" on the website.

Server Allocation

Instead of clicking "Connect to VS Code", which will send you to the browser version, you take note of the host name. In this case, it isidun-04-08, but it can be different depending on which particular node you are given.

Step 2: Setup ssh proxy

In order to access the compute nodes, you first have to login using the login nodes. This means that you need to setup a proxy jump, so that you access the compute nodes through the login nodes. The details behind this are not very important, so do not worry if you do not fully understand this. On MacOS, all you need to do is to open your ssh config file, usually located at ~/.ssh/config, and then add the following:

Host login-node
  User <your NTNU username>

Host compute-node
  HostName <Your allotted compute node, e.g. "idun-04-08">
  User <your NTNU username>
  ProxyJump login-node

If the file doesn't exist, feel free to create it. Make sure to change the HostName of the compute node, as well as the user for the login node and the compute node. An example of how this would look with my username is

Host login-node
  User jssaethe

Host compute-node
  HostName idun-04-08
  User jssaethe
  ProxyJump login-node

Step 3: Connect with VSCode

Now that you have this setup, you can open VSCode and connect to the compute node. This is done by pressing the blue button in the bottom right corner of VSCode, as seen in the image.

Corner button

This will open the following menu:

Connect to host

When you are here, you can click "Connect to Host" or "Connect current window to Host", depending on whether you want a new window or not. When you click one of them, you will get the following if you have done everything correctly:

Select host

Now, choose "compute-node". You will be prompted to enter your password quite a lot of times, possibly as many as eight times, so it can be handy to have your password in the clipboard or in a password manager. After typing your password a couple of times, you will get this screen:

Select folder

At this point, choose which folder you want to work in by clicking "open folder" on the left side. After clicking "OK", you will have to type your password a couple of more times.

Now you should be connected and ready to work! Any code you run in your window will now be ran on IDUN's CPUs or GPUs, depending on your selection in step 1.

Jupyter Notebook

It is possible to run an interactive Jupyter Notebook session hosted on the IDUN servers on your home computer. This is done through SSH tunneling. Start a jupyter notebook session from the folder you want to work with while logged in to IDUN:

cd /lustre1/work/username/foldername
module load Anaconda3/2020.07
jupyter notebook --no-browser

You will get a message like this:

To access the notebook, open this file in a browser:
    Or copy and paste one of these URLs:

Jupyter Notebook is then hosted on localhost:8890. Note that you might get another port. We want to access this from our own localhost:XXXX to open it in our local browser. Open a new command line window and log in to the NTNU servers:

ssh -X -l username

Now open an SSH-tunnel from the NTNU login to the IDUN login. Remember that you may use another login than login1:

ssh -L YYYY:localhost:8890

YYYY can be any available port. Try 8888 for instance, or 1234. However, we can still not access Jupyter Notebook from our browser, so we must make another tunnel from the NTNU login to our computer. Open a third command line window:

ssh -L XXXX:localhost:YYYY

Now you can copy the link from earlier, and change the port to your chosen port XXXX. Paste that into your browser: http://localhost:XXXX/?token=ff0495955e8663c1f31c2f6bae32da7197127e081142e590

You should be able to access your files from the IDUN folder you started jupyter notebook from.

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