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Sandstone HPC: A Domain General Gateway for New Users

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Sandstone HPC: A Domain General Gateway for New Users

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The complexity of high-performance computing (HPC) resources poses many challenges to new users. A number of science gateways have been developed to increase the productivity of novice users by hiding the underlying infrastructure, however these solutions tend not to teach HPC skills that transfer easily outside of the gateway. In this paper we introduce a domain-general gateway, Sandstone HPC, that represents the HPC environment more naturally to novice users by abstracting the command-line interface and providing contextual help. We assess the degree to which Sandstone HPC improves upon the usability of the command-line interface by analyzing the results of a usability study conducted on both environments. We will also detail how the architecture promotes long-term sustainability and a community-development model.

The complexity of high-performance computing (HPC) resources poses many challenges to new users. A number of science gateways have been developed to increase the productivity of novice users by hiding the underlying infrastructure, however these solutions tend not to teach HPC skills that transfer easily outside of the gateway. In this paper we introduce a domain-general gateway, Sandstone HPC, that represents the HPC environment more naturally to novice users by abstracting the command-line interface and providing contextual help. We assess the degree to which Sandstone HPC improves upon the usability of the command-line interface by analyzing the results of a usability study conducted on both environments. We will also detail how the architecture promotes long-term sustainability and a community-development model.

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Sandstone HPC: A Domain General Gateway for New Users

  1. 1. Sandstone HPC A Domain-General Gateway for New Users Zebula Sampedro sampedro@colorado.edu sandstonehpc.github.io
  2. 2. “ Sandstone HPC is a modular, consolidated set of web tools that make it easier to access and utilize HPC resources.
  3. 3. Minimizing the “Valley of Despair”
  4. 4. Mechanism ◦ Makes existing tools easier to use. ▫ But still allow direct use of the underlying system ▫ Reinforce the CLI workflow ▫ Minimize up-front knowledge needed ▫ Provide clear feedback ◦ Built on the model of a Cloud IDE ▫ Proven pattern for accessing remote resource ▫ Reduced emphasis on development ▫ Instead focus on common painpoints
  5. 5. Targeting Common Painpoints ◦ Editing files on the remote system ◦ File transfer and navigation ◦ Command line ◦ Creating and scheduling job scripts ◦ Recovering from system errors
  6. 6. Sandstone HPC components ◦ Code Editor ▫ Facilitate graphical file editing ◦ Filebrowser ▫ Intuitive pattern for uploading, managing, and viewing files. ◦ Web Terminal ▫ No client-side configuration, just need your credentials. ◦ Slurm Assist ▫ Interactive utility for building sbatch scripts with real-time validation.
  7. 7. Effectiveness ◦ Usability Study ▫ Slurm Assist module ▫ Novice to intermediate HPC experience ▫ Performed sets of tasks on Sandstone HPC and the CLI ■ Create a job script ■ Schedule the job given a plain-language description of its characteristics ■ Explain and correct errors
  8. 8. Effectiveness ◦ When using Sandstone ▫ Reduced error rate (-81%) ▫ Increased success rate (+44%) ▫ Minimal time spent reading docs ▫ Every participant correctly identified errors ▫ 100% would rather use Sandstone
  9. 9. Architecture ◦ Self-contained Python web app ▫ Tornado backend ▫ REST API ▫ AngularJS SPA ▫ Minimal footprint and dependencies ■ Linux/UNIX ■ pip2 (for now), pip3 ▫ Deployable behind JupyterHub ▫ PAM auth and SSL if used standalone ▫ Runs as a user command
  10. 10. Architecture ◦ Apps are just Python modules ▫ Contain server and client content ▫ Loaded based on config during bootstrap ▫ Pip-installable ▫ Easy to modify and extend ■ We’ve had great contributions already!
  11. 11. A Platform for HPC Education ◦ Focus on tutorial content ▫ A surprising amount of time spent on basic setup and client config ▫ Zero configuration for the end-user ▫ Allows for direct use of underlying system ▫ No need for terminal editors
  12. 12. Want to try it out? sampedro@colorado.edu https://sandstonehpc.github.io

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