Connecting to Interactive HPC Resources

Interactive sessions provide direct access to software modules hosted by MSI. They also provide direct access to all of your group’s data on our MSI-wide network file system. Use interactive sessions to prototype workflows, compile code, edit source and analyze/visualize data. When prototypes are ready to run at scale on our HPC systems, use interactive sessions to connect and submit batch jobs on the HPC resources.

Benefits of Interactive Sessions vs SSH?

Most users feel more comfortable interacting with GUIs over shell prompts. Interactive sessions give users the look and feel of a personal Linux laptop/workstation, but also includes all tools, modules, and data one would access via the command line. Why struggle to learn magic incantations on the command line when you can point and click your way through everything including visual debuggers/profilers, text editors, visualization software and data transfers.


Note: You must be on the UMN campus network to connect, if you are connecting from off-campus, then a VPN connection to the UMN network is required. Additionally, upon any login to MSI systems, there will be a 2FA prompt by DUO that will need to be confirmed.

Types of Interactive HPC:

srun -N 1 -n 1 -t 4:00:00 -p interactive --tmp 20gb --pty bash  

Connects a user interactively to one core of one HPC node, with a time limit of 4 hours, using a Bash shell. Here, they can use a command line to interactively run software.

Open OnDemand:

Connects to a portal for interactive access to MSI’s compute clusters, accessed through your web browser. Through its interface, you will be able to access your MSI files, a display of your current jobs on the MSI clusters, a command line on either of our compute clusters, or an interactive desktop on a compute node of either cluster with configurable memory and compute resources. In addition, you will have access to familiar servers, interactive development environments, and graphical user interfaces that have been adapted to use the Open OnDemand platform.


Citrix for Windows Environments: Connects a user to a graphical Windows environment, where they can access specialized Windows software for modeling and data analysis.

Jupyter Notebooks:

A web portal for notebook-based computing in the browser, which can be used for reproducible and shareable data analysis, visualization, and scripted control of larger tasks. Currently supports Python 2, Python 3, and R. 


Tips for Using the Interactive Linux Environment

  • Once the interactive Linux session has started you are able to access MSI software resources and run command line tools by opening the terminal application in the Linux environment. 
  • By starting the session you have reserved the computational resources outlined in the option you selected from the NICE menu. 
  • If you are using the NICE session as a way to gain access to a terminal interface, i.e., your personal computer runs Windows OS and you don't like using PuTTY, you can still connect to the other MSI systems by opening a terminal and using the command

    • ssh
      replacing resourcename with your desired MSI resource (mesabi, mangi, etc.)
  • For more information on connecting to MSI systems, see the instructions outlined in the Connecting to HPC Resources quick start guide.