This post was published at 01 May 2017


A cluster is a group of servers and other resources that act like a single system and enable high availability and, in some cases, load balancing and parallel processing.

Parallel applications require:

  • Good performance.
  • Low latency.
  • High bandwidth communications.
  • Scalable networks.
  • Fast access to files.

This technology allows to increase the processing capacity using a standard in both hardware and software that can be acquired at a relatively low cost.

It is classified in:

  • High Performance

    Its objective is to execute tasks that require a high computational power, being able to execute during a long period of time.

  • High Aviability

    Its objective is to provide the maximum availability and reliability of the services, that is, it detects failures and recovers by itself.

  • High Throughput

    Its objective is to execute as many tasks in the shortest possible time.

And they need to be:

  • Load Balancer

    Is a device that distributes network or application traffic across a cluster of servers improving responsiveness and increasing availability of applications.

  • Scalable

Setting up a Beowulf type CPU Cluster

Our cluster is named JCluster.

This guide describes how to build a simple cluster in Ubuntu.
We have 5 nodes running ubuntu server with hostnames: Jmaster, Jnode01, Jnode02, Jnode03, Jnode04 and Jnode05.

Configure our static IP

So first, we configure our IP, DNS on file /etc/network/interfaces.
We need a static IP for a local network in all of them (nodes and master).

#Ethernet for Jmaster
auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static

Configure our hosts

Then, in all computers (nodes and master) edit the file /etc/hosts like this way:

  • On Jmaster and Jnode0X:        localhost
    #        Jmaster  Jmaster  Jnode01  Jnode02  Jnode03  Jnode04  Jnode05

Configure our hostname

If you want, you can change your hostname on file /etc/hostname and then reboot your system.

Enabling Firewall

First, we need to check the applications that require conections:

sudo ufw app list
sudo ufw disable

Then, on master and nodes we should allows OpenSSH and NFS:

sudo ufw allow OpenSSH
sudo ufw allow nfs
sudo ufw enable
sudo ufw status


for more info, press here.

Managing users and groups

In all machines, we should create an user to manage the system.
Best way to create users and groups, Recommended:

  • Create/Delete new group:

    sudo addgroup jclustergroup
    sudo delgroup jclustergroup
  • Add/Delete user to a specific group or system (empty):

    sudo adduser juser [jclustergroup/empty]
    sudo deluser juser [jclustergroup/empty]
  • Add/Change password to user:

    sudo passwd juser

For more information press here

Making secure connections

For this, we use OpenSSH.
OpenSSh is a free suite of tools that help secure your network connections (similar to the SSH connectivity tools).

sudo apt-get install openssh-server
sudo apt-get install openssh-client

Creating a public-private key

First, in all machines we use juser that was just created:

su juser
  • Public key: Encrypt messages - transmitter (store in authorized_keys)
  • Private key: Decrypt messages - receiver

Then we generate a RSA key pair:

ssh-keygen -t rsa


This, generate files id_rsa and on directory .ssh.
Create authorized_keys file:

cat >> authorized_keys

Then, change permissions:

chmod 700 ~/.ssh
chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

Finally, as superuser we need to configure /etc/ssh/sshd_config file.
First, make a copy and then modify:

sudo cp /etc/ssh/sshd_config /etc/ssh/sshd_config.original

Then, modify and add:

PermitRootLogin no
PubkeyAuthentication yes
PasswordAuthentication no
Port 254
# Time to log
LoginGraceTime 30
# any Host.
Allowusers Jremote
# just
AllowUsers Jremote@
# any ip of the network 192.168.0.*
AllowUsers Jremote@192.168.0.*
# Jremote can connect from any domain, Jremota just connect from that domain
AllowUsers Jremote@*    

Now, we restart the service:

sudo /etc/init.d/ssh restart

Copying public keys to remote nodes.

Copying the public key to a remote host (nodes) as juser:

cat ~/.ssh/ | ssh remotePC@remoteHost 'mkdir -p ~/.ssh ; cat >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys'

Do the same in Jmaster and Jnodes0X.

  • Then, we can connect without password using:

    ssh remotePC@remoteHost -p 254
  • To copy files from remote to local (Download)

    scp -r username@hostname:/path/to/file /path/to/destination
  • To copy files from the local to the remote (Upload)

    scp -r /path/to/file username@hostname:/path/to/destination
  • By a specific port:

    scp -r -p xxxx username@hostname:/path/to/file /path/to/destination

Making a Network Sharing System

The Network File System (NFS) is a client/server application that allows us to create a folder on the master node and have it synced on all the other nodes. This folder can be used to store programs.

  • Install on master or server:

    sudo apt-get install nfs-kernel-server
  • Install on node or clients:

    sudo apt-get install nfs-common

Sharing Master folder

Make a folder in all nodes and master, our data and programs will be store in this folder.
So, as juser we make a folder and change credentials for nobody.

mkdir ~/forShare

This is optional:

  • Finally we change the credentials to juser:

    sudo chown juser:jclustergroup ~/forShare

So, on Jmaster node as superuser, in file /etc/exports write:

# share forShare folder to any
/home/juser/forShare  *(rw,sync,no_root_squash,no_subtree_check)
  • rw: read/write
  • ro: read only
  • sync: This applies changes to the shared directory only after changes are committed.
  • no_root_squash: This allows root account to connect to the folder.
  • no_subtree_check: This option prevents the subtree checking.

Then, run:

sudo exportfs -a

Now restart the nfs service:

sudo service nfs-kernel-server restart
sudo systemctl restart nfs-kernel-server

Mounting Master folder in nodes

In clients Jnode0X, create:

sudo mkdir ~/forShare

Then, we mount folders:

sudo mount -v -t nfs Jmaster:/home/juser/forShare  /home/juser/forShare


df -h


Mounting Master folder at boot

We can mount the remote NFS shares automatically at boot by adding them to /etc/fstab file on the client:

Jmaster:/home/juser/forShare  /home/juser/forShare       nfs auto,nofail,noatime,nolock,intr,tcp,actimeo=1800 0 0

Then, you just write on clients Jnode0X:

mount -a

Unmounting folder

From clients write:

sudo umount /home/juser/forShare


Managing external connections

For manage this, we use Fail2Ban.
Fail2Ban is an intrusion prevention software framework that protects computer servers from brute-force attacks.

sudo apt-get install fail2ban

So, first we must modify /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf file:

  • Make a copy

    sudo cp /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf /etc/fail2ban/jail.local
  • Then modify /etc/fail2ban/jail.local adding this:

      enabled = true
      port = ssh
      filter = sshd
      logpath = /var/log/auth.log
      maxretry = 3
      findtime = 600
      bantime = 60

Then, we start/restart the service:

sudo service fail2ban restart
sudo service fail2ban start

Add to this, you can see the login fil on /var/log/auth.log.

  • see ssh-clients status and banned ip:

    sudo fail2ban-client status ssh
  • ban Ip ssh-client:

    sudo fail2ban-client set ssh banip IPNAME


  • Unban IP ssh-client:

    sudo fail2ban-client set ssh unbanip IPNAME


Managing all nodes at the same time

For this, we use clusterssh.
Cluster SSH opens terminal windows with connections to specified hosts and an administration console. Any text typed into the administration console is replicated to all other connected and active windows.

sudo apt-get install clusterssh

First, create a /etc/clusters file and next identify your clusters.

For example, we have 2 clusters:

  • JCluster_1, it have the machines Jnode01 and Jnode02.
  • JCluster_2, it have the machines Jnode03, Jnode04 and Jnode05.

Then, in /etc/clusters file we should write:

clustersL JCluster1 JCluster2
JCluster_1 Jnode01 Jnode02
JCluster_2 Jnode03 Jnode04 Jnode05

Or in another form:

clustersL all
all JCluster_1 JCluster_2
JCluster_1 Jnode01 Jnode02
JCluster_2 Jnode03 Jnode04 Jnode05

Then, write in terminal:

cssh <clustername>
cssh clusterSL

And if you want to connect with a specific user, write:

cssh -l <username> <clustername>



  • We can implement a MPICH cluster for Distributed Computing using our Jmaster and Jnodes0X.