Virtual machines for research
Introduction to the virtual machine service
The DCSR has deployed a new facility to provide researchers with a virtual machine (VM) service. Two kind of virtual machines are available:
- virtual workstations: the idea is to offer a workstation reachable from anywhere (even outside UNIL) from a simple Web browser or a dedicated client. Depending on the requested configuration, a virtual workstation can be used to cover basic office needs, or it could be a powerful computer able to deal with intensive computation and possibly with data visualization that leverages advanced graphics accelerators. Thanks to this workstation, one could start a task from UNIL and recover the same task from somewhere else without losing the workspace and the associated windows. These virtual workstations are offered within the frame of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).
- virtual servers: this kind of virtual machine (VM) is ideal for research groups that need to run long-term services. For instance, it could host a reference database or a web application shared among a group or a department. But also, it is possible to host any kind of analysis tools that would require computation capabilities.
Should I use a virtual workstation or a virtual server?
If you need to run applications and interact through a graphical interface (excepted a web interface), you have to choose virtual workstations. Instead, if you need to run applications that don't need graphical interface or that can be used through a web interface you have to choose virtual servers. If you hesitate, contact us!
How to ask for a virtual machine?
You have to use the research resource requests application available there. Any demand must be performed by the PI of a group. After having filled the information related to the project, you have to select the appropriate bundles (either virtualization workstation or virtualization server):
Then, if you choose one of the both products, you have to fill the characteristics:
Some important points to note:
- Login corresponds to the UNIL login of the user that will use the virtual machine. It is not necessarily the PI of the group.
- OS: you can choose the operating system that will be installed on the virtual machine, at the moment we offer Centos8 and Windows10.
- CPU and memory: you have to define the amount of cores and memory required for your virtual machine. This should be defined according to the requirements of the applications you plan to run. If you don't know, just ask us. In any case, we will be able to increase both values later, so don't over-estimate your needs.
- Additional storage: by default: only a few GB will be available in the virtual machine. If you need more space for your application, you can specify it here. Note that you will be able to mount the NAS into the virtual machine, so this space is not supposed to be used as an archive or long term storage area.
- GPU: this option is only available for virtual workstations. Depending on your applications, you can use a Nvidia T4 GPU (suitable for machine learning or artificial intelligence workload) or a Nvidia V100S GPU (suitable for general purpose graphical computation).
Once the fields are filled, you can choose to add another virtual machine of the same kind. If you don't need another one, just click the "Next" button at the end of the page and complete the resource request.
How to connect to virtual machines?
Connection to virtual workstation
Connection to virtual workstations is performed thanks to VMware Horizon available either through a web browser or a desktop client. Just go to this page and choose if you prefer the HTML access or the desktop client. If you work from home, you will first need to be in VPN using Pulse Secure (see VPN instructions). In most of the cases, HTML access will be easier but if you want to define some advanced key shortcuts or choose some parameters like video compression, you will have to choose the desktop client method to access those parameters. The desktop client will ask you for a view server address, use vdi.dcsr.unil.ch as the address.
Let's suppose that you have chosen HTML access, you have to enter your UNIL credentials and then login.
Once logged in Horizon, your virtual machine(s) will appear:
Finally, you just have to click on the virtual machine and the graphical desktop will appear. Here is an example with a Linux desktop: