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IQSS: Getting started on CANNON and FASSE

This getting started Guide is intended for IQSS social sciences researchers who are new to the FASRC (Faculty of Arts & Sciences Research Computing) clusters CANNON and FASSE.

If you have been using IQSS’s RCE (Research Computing Environment), please read IQSS: Differences between the RCE and FAS-RC Clusters before continuing to read here.

When you have finished reading this Quick Start guide, you should:

  1. Know which cluster to use for your research
  2. Know which VPN realm to use to reach it
  3. Know how to use the cluster’s dashboard to launch an application

I can't do this research on my own computer

What is a Cluster?

A cluster is a set of computers working together like a single entity.  (When other FASRC documents use the term “node”, just substitute computer.)  A cluster might be as small as 2 computers or as large as CANNON’s 3000+. While supercomputers are often focused on running a single application, clusters can run many applications for many users at once.

Which Cluster Should I Use?

Which cluster should I use

Before you can run an application, you have to choose between the CANNON and FASSE clusters.  By now, you should already have a FAS Research Computing Account.

Which cluster you use is based on your research data’s Data Security Level (see Information Security Policy).

  • CANNON, often called the FAS-RC Cluster primarily because it predates FASSE, can be used with Data Security Level 1 (DSL1, Public Information) and Data Security Level 2 (DSL2, Low Risk) materials.  (Note that some FASRC documents still refer to Odyssey, the cluster that CANNON replaced in September 2019.)
  • FASSE, the FAS Secure Environment, can be used with Data Security Level 1 (DSL1), Data Security Level 2 (DSL2), and especially Data Security Level 3(DSL3, Medium Risk) materials.  For more information, see FASSE Cluster – FAS Secure Environment.

If you need to use Data Security Level 4 (DSL4, High Risk) materials, your project must contact contact FASRC and fund the creation of a custom environment.

No cluster at Harvard is rated for Data Security Level 5 (DSL5, extremely sensitive) materials.

Which VPN Realm Should I Use?

Use the right VPN realm

Once you know which cluster to use, you connect to the VPN (Virtual Private Network) – vpn.rc.fas.harvard.edu – with

  1. Your username.
  2. The correct realm.  Realms provide access to different environments.
  3. Your password.
  4. The current 2-Factor Authentication code.

To reach CANNON, you must use the @fasrc realm.  Enter your username as username@fasrc (e.g. jharvard@fasrc).  If you’re connected to the “wrong” realm, your attempt to reach the cluster will time out!

To reach FASSE, you must use the @fasse realm.  Enter your username as username@fasse (e.g. jharvard@fasse).  If you’re connected to the “wrong” realm, your attempt to reach the cluster will time out!

Once you’re connected, if you have difficulty accessing Internet resources you may need to add proxy settings to your environment (e.g. browser settings or command line interface).  See Proxy Settings.

How do I launch an application?

From your point of view, you need to run an application to do your research.  From the cluster’s point of view, that application is just another job that it needs to schedule and execute.

There are two ways that you can run applications on the clusters:

  1. Aided by the cluster’s dashboard.  (See below.)
  2. By issuing Slurm commands via the command line in a terminal emulator session.  (The Slurm Workload Manager – also known as SLURM – is the job scheduler.)  This option is NOT COVERED in the IQSS documents.  Please consult other FASRC knowledge base articles or contact Support for personalized assistance.

Dashboards on CANNON and FASSE

CANNON and FASSE each offer a dashboard which is a graphical user interface for launching applications.  Clicking on an application icon, or choosing an application from the Interactive Apps drop-down list, takes you to a page where you fill in fields for the resources needed to run that application.  Each of the application pages has common resources and at least one resource that is specific to that application.

Getting Started tip: The settings you specified the last time you launched the application are saved and appear as “defaults” when you return to the page.

This is an image of CANNON’s dashboard.  FASSE’s dashboard is nearly identical except the header is blue/gray and the page says Welcome to FASSE rather than Welcome to FAS-RC Cluster.

Pinned Apps

Both dashboards highlight Pinned Apps – A featured subset of all available apps that make it easier to launch them.  See these documents for Quick Start suggestions for each application’s resources (listed in the order they appear on the dashboards):

Clusters drop-down list

From the Clusters drop-down list on the dashboard, you can launch a new browser tab with a terminal emulator command line interface.  After you connect, you are positioned in your home directory.  Note that on FASSE, you must re-supply your password and enter another 2-Factor Authentication code before you get a command prompt.

This is CANNON’s drop-down list.  FASSE’s is nearly identical except the header is blue/gray and the application is named >_FASSE Shell Access rather than >_FAS-RC Shell Access.

Clusters menu on CANNON

Files drop-down list

From the Files drop-down list on the dashboard, you can launch Home Directory which uses the current browser tab to provide graphical access to your home directory.

This is FASSE’s drop-down list.  CANNON’s is nearly identical except the header is red.

Files menu on FASSE

Jobs drop-down list

From the Jobs drop-down list on the dashboard, you can launch Active Jobs which uses the current browser tab to show you a table of the jobs that you have running on the cluster.  If you have no active jobs, the table says “No data available in table“.

Or you can launch Job Composer which opens a new browser tab that lets you use templates (existing ones or ones you create) to submit jobs to the cluster.  This option is NOT COVERED in the IQSS documents. Please consult other FASRC knowledge base articles or contact Support for personalized assistance.

This is CANNON’s drop-down list.  FASSE’s is nearly identical except the header is blue/gray.

Jobs menu on CANNON

Interactive Apps drop-down list on CANNON

From the Interactive Apps drop-down list on CANNON’s dashboard, you can launch these applications:

Interactive Apps menu on CANNON

The list of available applications may change.  Note that some entries are duplicates of the Pinned Apps.

The additional applications are NOT COVERED in the IQSS documents.  Please consult other FASRC knowledge base articles or contact Support for personalized assistance.

Interactive Apps drop-down list on FASSE

From the Interactive Apps drop-down list on FASSE’s dashboard, you can launch these applications:

Interactive Apps menu on FASSE

The list of available applications may change.  Note that some entries are duplicates of the Pinned Apps.

The additional applications are NOT COVERED in the IQSS documents.  Please consult other FASRC knowledge base articles or contact Support for personalized assistance.

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