What is Rocks, and how do I use it to build an XSEDE-Compatible Basic Cluster (XCBC)?

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About Rocks core and optional rolls

Rocks is an open source cluster distribution solution that simplifies the processes of deploying, managing, upgrading, and scaling high-performance parallel computing clusters. Rocks is designed to help scientists with little or no cluster experience build Linux-based supercomputers that are compatible with systems used by national computing centers and international grids.

The current release, Rocks 6.2 (Sidewinder), is based on CentOS 6.6 and is available for x86_64 architectures only. Past releases are available for x86_64 and i386 systems; see the Rocks Downloads page.

Each Rocks release includes several core bundles, or rolls, that provide the operating system and other applications integral to Linux-based cluster computing. The kernel, base, and os rolls are required to build a "bare-bones" Rocks cluster. Depending on the release, installation of a service-pack roll (if supplied) also may be required.

Each Rocks release also includes several Rocks-developed rolls that extend the feature set of the "bare-bones" Rocks cluster. You can install these optional rolls during the initial Rocks installation procedure or add them later onto an existing, pre-configured Rocks cluster.

Optional rolls for Rocks 6.2 include:

Optional roll Description
area51 Security-related packages for analyzing the integrity of files and the kernel
bio Bioinformatics utilities
Fingerprint FingerPrint application dependencies
HTCondor HTCondor high-throughput computing workload management system
ganglia Ganglia cluster monitoring system
hpc Tools for running parallel applications
kvm Support for building Kernel-Based Virtual Machine (KVM) virtual machines on cluster nodes
perfSONAR perfSONAR network performance monitoring
perl Perl RPM, Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN) support utilities, and various CPAN modules
python Python 2.7 and Python 3.x
sge Sun Grid Engine (Open Grid Scheduler) job queuing system
torque TORQUE resource manager and Maui job scheduler
web-server Rocks web server roll
zfs-linux ZFS device drivers for Linux

You can download and install the individual .iso images for the core and optional rolls, or download and install a single jumbo roll DVD image that includes the core rolls and several of the optional rolls listed above.

Additional community-developed rolls (e.g., the XSEDE Rocks roll) also are available to simplify the uniform installation of custom configurations across large numbers of computers.

As part of its Campus Bridging effort, the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) distributes a custom Rocks roll designed to minimize the complexity of building XSEDE-compatible Linux clusters for use by the US open science community. The XSEDE Rocks roll provides the widely used open source scientific, mathematical, and visualization packages needed to convert a "bare-bones" Rocks cluster into an XSEDE-Compatible Basic Cluster (XCBC), a high-performance parallel computing cluster that's compatible with XSEDE digital services.

Administrators operating existing "bare-bones" Rocks clusters also can use the XSEDE Rocks roll, or the XSEDE National Integration Toolkit (XNIT), to reconfigure their systems as XSEDE-Compatible Basic Cluster (XCBC) systems.

Building an XCBC system with Rocks and the XSEDE Rocks roll

Installing the XSEDE Rocks roll expands the feature set of a "bare-bones" Rocks cluster to include several widely used open source scientific packages. Packages included in the XSEDE Rocks roll vary by release, according to demand. To see which packages are included in the latest XSEDE Rocks roll, see the README.0.0.10 file. The RPMs in the XSEDE Rocks roll also are included in the XSEDE National Integration Toolkit (XNIT; formerly known as the XSEDE Yum Repository). For more on XNIT, see About the XSEDE National Integration Toolkit (XNIT)

Note: The packages included in the XSEDE Rocks roll are for x86_64 clusters only. To ensure compatibility, make sure all the computers in your cluster have x86_64 CPUs.

To build an XCBC system using the latest Rocks release and the current XSEDE Rocks roll:

  1. Go to Download Rocks 6.2 (Sidewinder), and then, under "x86_64", download .iso images for the kernel, base, and os roll CDs (for the os roll, the .iso images for disks 1, 2, and 3 are required).

    Alternatively, download the .iso image for the jumbo roll DVD.

  2. Under "Individual Rolls", download the .iso images for any optional rolls you want to install.
  3. Download the .iso image for version 0.0.10 of the XSEDE Rocks roll (xsede-0.0.10-0.x86_64.disk1.iso) from this page. The .iso image supports the standard Rocks CentOS 6.6 distribution for x86_64 systems.
  4. Boot your system's front end with the kernel or jumbo roll, and then supply the base and os rolls.
  5. When prompted to install rolls, use the .iso images you downloaded in steps 2 and 3 to install any Rocks-developed optional rolls and the XSEDE Rocks roll.

    Note: The XSEDE Rocks roll and the XSEDE National Integration Toolkit (XNIT) include open source applications developed and released by organizations that are not affiliated with the XSEDE project. Each application has its own specific disclaimers of risk. XSEDE distributes these applications as a service to the open science research community, and does not accept any liability, or make any claims about the suitability of these packages for any particular use. By choosing to install or use any of the applications included in the XSEDE Rocks roll or the XNIT repository, you take full responsibility for the consequences.

Documentation and support

For a guide to installing and managing a Rocks cluster, see the Base Users Guide.

User guides for the optional Rocks-developed rolls are available from the Rocks Support and Docs page, as are links to technical papers and other Rocks resources.

If you have a question about the XSEDE Rocks roll, or need help, contact the XSEDE Help Desk.

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This document was developed with support from National Science Foundation (NSF) grants 1053575 and 1548562. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.