Technology Partners

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University of Technology, Sydney

NoMachine gives 400+ student researchers and staff remote access to graphic-intensive mathematics, physics, and computational applications located on the university's FEIT High Performance Computing Linux Cluster.

About the University
The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) is located in Sydney, Australia, and serves more than 35,700 students and 2,750 staff. Consistently ranked in the top 300 universities worldwide, much of the university's first-class research is benchmarked by the Australian government as above world standard. The university's FEIT High Performance Computing Linux Cluster provides a high-performance computing (HPC) resource for all researchers within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT). The Faculty houses ten research centers, including a node of the Center for Autonomous Systems, the world's leading robotics center.
The Challenge
The UTS FEIT HPC Linux Cluster needed a better, faster means of connecting research students and staff to supercomputing resources. Unlike many other HPC facilities who provide command access only, UTS' facility was designed to give users, many of whom have little or no Unix experience, a fully interactive graphical environment that is similar to the Windows desktop environment they are used to. Students were given access to graphic-intensive mathematics, physics, and computational applications, such as MATLAB, where session speed is a critical factor to productivity. With HPC Cluster access also available for use from off-campus, the facility needed to be able to provide users with a secure SSH connection that could be accessed via a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer.
The Solution
UTS FEIT tried a few different software options, but were either restricted to Windows or the speed wasn't ideal. In 2007, the facility began using NoMachine's enterprise-level software in combination with the NX Web Companion. Now, the primary method of accessing the HPC Cluster is through the facility's web portal, which uses the NoMachine's NX Web Companion to securely connect users (both on and off-campus) to a cluster node.

"The main reason we chose NoMachine and the Web Companion was the large number of machines that the users can connect to," said FEIT Research Computing Manager, Dr. Matt Gaston. "It also provides essentially a single sign-on environment, allowing users to connect to multiple machines without entering their password multiple times. Rather than statically configuring profiles for 100+ machines, we have a web front end that dynamically creates a session at the users request."

To give users a flexible, customized environment, Dr. Gaston and his team set up the NX Web Companion to provide three types of NX sessions: a Gnome desktop, a console (for those who prefer a command-line interface), and a session that launches a Windows 7 virtual machine. The Windows 7 virtual machines provide users with access to high-speed processors and memory for Windows software that would otherwise hog the limited resources available to desktop PCs. Users are also able to customize session settings in the portal, such as screen resolution or compression settings, in order to create a richer desktop experience.

Figure 1. High-performance computing users get access to an easy GUI with NoMachine's NX Web Companion


The NoMachine NX Web Companion enables the University of Technology, Sydney to provide access to their FEIT High-performance Computing Linux Cluster for more than 400 Mac, Windows, and Linux users. With one click, students, researchers and staff get an easy-to-use GUI desktop environment without having to configure any client software. Users also don't need to learn any Linux commands to solve their problems, so they can start running their computations right away.

"Our HPC facility totally depends on NoMachine. It is a critical component of our system," adds Dr. Gaston.