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The UPPMAX clusters

UPPMAX is an organization that provides HPC clusters.

Where can I find an overview of UPPMAX?

One can find an overview of UPPMAX here

Where can I find an overview of UPPMAX's systems?

One can find an overview of UPPMAX's systems here

After giving an overview of the different UPPMAX clusters, it is discussed what a computer cluster is, how it differs from a supercomputer, what the restrictions of a computer cluster are, as well as some added restrictions on a sensitive data computer cluster.

This is followed by a detailed technical summary of the clusters and a detailed overview of the clusters.

Overview of UPPMAX clusters

UPPMAX clusters are computing systems, i.e. they allow a user to do heavy computational calculations.

All UPPMAX clusters are named after Tintin characters. UPPMAX has, among others, the following clusters:

  • Bianca: for sensitive data, general use
  • Rackham: regular data, general purpose
  • Snowy: regular data, long runs and GPU:s

Another cluster UPPMAX is involved in:

  • Dardel: a general purpose HPC cluster in Stockholm. Consider moving your files to it already
flowchart TD
    UPPMAX(Which UPPMAX cluster?)
    Bianca
    Dardel
    Rackham
    Snowy
    is_sensitive[Do you use sensitive data?]
    is_long[Do you use long runs and/or GPUs?]

    UPPMAX --> is_sensitive 
    is_sensitive --> |yes|Bianca
    is_sensitive --> |no|is_long
    is_long --> |no|Rackham
    is_long --> |yes|Snowy
    Rackham --> |consider migrating to| Dardel

All UPPMAX clusters follow the same file system, with special folders. See the UPPMAX page on its file systems here.

What is a computer cluster technically?

A computer cluster is a machine that consists out of many computers. These computers work together.

Each computer of a cluster is called a node.

There are three types of nodes:

  • login nodes: nodes where a user enters and interacts with the system
Logging in

Logging in is described separately per cluster:

  • calculation nodes: nodes that do the calculations
Requesting a calculation to run

Requesting a calculation to run is described here. This is done by using the Slurm scheduler.

  • interactive nodes: a type of calculation node, where a user can do calculations directly
Requesting an interactive node

Requesting an interactive node is described per cluster:

This is done by requesting an interactive node from the Slurm scheduler.

Each node contains several CPU/GPU cores, RAM and local storage space.

A user logs in to a login node via the Internet.

flowchart TD

    %% Give a white background to all nodes, instead of a transparent one
    classDef node fill:#fff,color:#000,stroke:#000

    %% Graph nodes for files and calculations
    classDef file_node fill:#fcf,color:#000,stroke:#f0f
    classDef calculation_node fill:#ccf,color:#000,stroke:#00f

    subgraph sub_inside[IP inside SUNET]
      subgraph sub_bianca_shared_env[Bianca shared network]
        subgraph sub_bianca_private_env[The project's private virtual project cluster]
          login_node(User on login node)
          interactive_node(User on interactive node)
          computation_node(Computation node):::calculation_node
        end
      end
    end

    %% Shared subgraph color scheme
    %% style sub_outside fill:#ccc,color:#000,stroke:#ccc
    style sub_inside fill:#fcc,color:#000,stroke:#fcc
    style sub_bianca_shared_env fill:#ffc,color:#000,stroke:#ffc
    style sub_bianca_private_env fill:#cfc,color:#000,stroke:#cfc

    login_node --> |move user, interative|interactive_node
    login_node --> |submit jobs, sbatch|computation_node
    computation_node -.-> |can become| interactive_node

The different types of nodes an UPPMAX cluster has. White nodes: nodes a user can interact with. Blue nodes: nodes a user cannot interact with.

Difference between a supercomputer and a (high-performing) computer cluster

A supercomputer, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IBM_Blue_Gene_P_supercomputer.jpg

A supercomputer is a machine that is optimized for doing calculations quickly. For example, to predict the weather for tomorrow, the calculation may not take a week. The image above is a supercomputer.

A computer cluster using some Raspberry Pi's

A computer cluster is a machine that is optimized for doing a lot of calculations. The image above shows a home-made computer cluster. This home-made computer cluster may not be suitable for high-performance.

The Rackham computer cluster

The image above shows Rackham, another UPPMAX computer cluster, suitable for high-performance computing. This makes Rackham an high-performance computing (HPC) cluster. Bianca and Rackham are HPC clusters.

When using this definition:

a supercomputer is one big computer, while high-performance computing is many computers working toward the same goal

Frank Downs

one could conclude that the UPPMAX HPC cluster can be used as a supercomputer when a user runs a calculation on all nodes.

Restrictions on a computer cluster

A computer cluster is a group of computers that can run many calculations, as requested by multiple people, at the same time.

To ensure fair use of this shared resource, regular users are restricted in some ways:

  • Users cannot run calculations directly. Instead, users need to request either (1) a calculation to be run, or (2) an interactive node
Requesting a calculation to run

Requesting a calculation to run is described here. This is done by using the Slurm scheduler.

Requesting an interactive node

Requesting an interactive node is described per cluster:

This is done by requesting an interactive node from the Slurm scheduler.

  • Users cannot install software directly. Instead, users need to use pre-installed software or learn techniques how to run custom software anyway
Using pre-installed software

Using pre-installed software is described here. This is done by using the module system.

How to run custom software

Techniques how to run custom software is not part of this course. Instead, one technique is part of the intermediate Bianca course and can be found described here, which is about using containers

These restrictions apply to most general-purpose clusters and all UPPMAX clusters.

Restrictions on a sensitive data computer cluster

Next to the general restrictions above, a sensitive data cluster has additional restrictions.

Here is an overview which clusters are designed for sensitive data:

Cluster name Sensitive data yes/no?
Bianca Yes
Rackham No
Snowy No

On a sensitive data cluster, (sensitive) data must be protected to remain there, due to which there are these additional restrictions to users:

  • Users have no direct access to internet. Instead, users can up/download files from/to a special folder.
File transfer

Transferring files is described per sensitive data cluster:

The goal is not to prevent the up/download of sensitive data, instead it is to prevent the accidental up/download of sensitive data. As these up/downloads are monitored, in case of an accident, the extent of the leak and the person (accidentally) causing it is known. Identifying a responsible person in case of such an accident is required by law.

UPPMAX clusters technical summary

This is a technical summary of the UPPMAX clusters:

Rackham Snowy Bianca
Purpose General-purpose General-purpose Sensitive
# Intel CPU Nodes 486+144 228 288
# GPU Nodes - 50, Nvidia T4 10, 2x Nvidia A100 each
Cores per node 20/16 16 16/64
Memory per node 128 GB 128 GB 128 GB
Fat nodes 256 GB & 1 TB 256, 512 GB & 4 TB 256 & 512 GB
Local disk (scratch) 2/3 TB 4 TB 4 TB
Login nodes Yes No (reached from Rackham) Yes (2 cores and 15 GB)
"Home" storage Domus Domus Castor
"Project" Storage Crex, Lutra Crex, Lutra Castor

Detailed overview of the UPPMAX systems


  graph TB

  Node1 -- interactive --> SubGraph2Flow
  Node1 -- sbatch --> SubGraph2Flow
  subgraph "Snowy"
  SubGraph2Flow(calculation nodes) 
        end

        thinlinc -- usr-sensXXX + 2FA + VPN ----> SubGraph1Flow
        terminal -- usr --> Node1
        terminal -- usr-sensXXX + 2FA + VPN ----> SubGraph1Flow
        Node1 -- usr-sensXXX + 2FA + no VPN ----> SubGraph1Flow

        subgraph "Bianca"
        SubGraph1Flow(Bianca login) -- usr+passwd --> private(private cluster)
        private -- interactive --> calcB(calculation nodes)
        private -- sbatch --> calcB
        end

        subgraph "Rackham"
        Node1[Login] -- interactive --> Node2[calculation nodes]
        Node1 -- sbatch --> Node2
        end