The Unix Shell

Accessing the Palmetto Cluster


Teaching: 15 min
Exercises: 0 min
  • How can I access the Palmetto cluster from my local machine?


In this workshop, we will use a command-line interface to interact with the Palmetto cluster, which runs the Linux operating system specifically, Scientific Linux. However, note that these commands can be used on any Unix-based operating system, including Mac OS X.

To be able to run commands on the Palmetto from your own machine, you will first need to be able to log in to the Palmetto. This is known as a remote login.

$ ssh

If you run Windows, you will use the SSH Secure Shell to log in. Click on File > Quick Connect, and use the following parameters (whichever required):

When logged in, you are presented with a welcome message and the following “prompt”:

[username@user001 ~]$ 

The prompt in a bash shell usually consists of a dollar ($) sign, and shows that the shell is waiting for input. The prompt may also contain other information: this prompt tells you your username and which node you are connected to - user001 is the “login” node. It also tells you your current directory, i.e., ~, which, as you will learn shortly, is short for your home directory. We will mostly refer to the prompt as just $, i.e.,


Basic structure of the cluster

Structure of the Palmetto Cluster

The Palmetto cluster has several “compute” nodes that can perform fast calculations on large amounts of data. It also has a few so-called “service” nodes, that are not meant for this purpose. Instead, they are meant to help users perform other actions such as transfering code and data to and from the cluster.

The most important of these “service” nodes is the login node user001. The login node runs a “server” program that listens for remote logins. On our own machines, we run a “client” program (Secure Shell or ssh) that can talk to this server. Our client program passes our login credentials to this server, and if we are allowed to log in, the server runs a shell for us on the computer it is running on (user0001). Any commands that we enter into this shell are executed not by our own machines, but by user0001.

Key Points