Running distributed computation on Cloudlab


I like measurement and analysis, and I run a lot of trace analysis in the past. For example, I find that FIFO-Reinsertion has a lower miss ratio than LRU for cache eviction, simple FIFO-based algorithms can be more efficient and effective than state-of-the-art algorithms.

The analysis is performed using more than 6000 traces with more than 800 billion requests. In total, more than 1 million of CPU core hours are used. To perform such large-scale analysis, I need to run them in parallel. However, I cannot use existing platforms to do this easily because my scripts are highly-customized. Moreover, I need a platform that can maximize resource utilization. Because I cannot predict the CPU and memory usage of my jobs, the platform needs to run as many jobs as possible on each node, if later the resource usage grows beyond the capacity of the node, the latest job should be returned to the job pool.

Therefore, I need to build my own platform to run the analysis. So here is the distComp platform, it is open-sourced at


distComp is a platform to run distributed computation using data-parallel. Currently, it supports bash jobs and Python jobs.



architecture diagram

distComp architecture

The architecture of distComp has evolved over time. The first version uses RPC with worker nodes fetching tasks from the master node. However, this design couples states into the master, which is hard to be fault-tolerant. The current version of distComp uses a manager-worker architecture. The manager node submits the tasks to a Redis instance (running on the same node as the manager). The worker nodes perform the computation. The task submission and task execution are decoupled. Meanwhile, the state is persisted in Redis which periodically saves the state to disk.

How to use

0. Prepare worker nodes

You need to prepare the worker nodes to run the tasks, e.g., install dependencies. Besides the dependency of running the task, the worker and manager nodes need to install redis and psutil packages.

pip install redis psutil

And the manager needs parallel-ssh to launch jobs.

If your task requires data, the data must be accessible on the worker nodes. You can consider using a cluster file system, e.g., MooseFS, to aggregate disk capacity from all workers and provide high-bandwidth access to data.

1. Setup Redis on the manager node

bash ./

2. Create the tasks to be run

Create a file containing all the tasks. Each line in the file consists of a task in the following format:

# task type:priority:min_dram:min_cpu:task_params
# echo 'shell:4:2:2:./cachesim PARAM1 PARAM2' >> task

# submit the tasks to the Redis
python3 --task 'initRedis&loadTask' --taskfile task

3. Start the worker nodes

We use the parallel-ssh tool to start the scripts on the worker nodes. The list of workers (ip or hostname) is stored in the host file.

parallel-ssh -h host -i -t 0 '''
    cd /PATH/TO/DistComp;
    screen -S worker -L -Logfile workerScreen/$(hostname) -dm python3

4. Monitor the progress

# check the task status
python3 --task checkTask --finished false --todo false --in_progress false --failed false

# check the worker status
python3 --task checkWorker

# monitor the task progress
watch "python3 --task 'checkTask&checkWorker' --finished false --print_result false --in_progress false"


distComp is not designed for production use, and I have not extensively tested it nor have a well-designed user interface. distComp only support limited simple fault tolerance, and I have not tested against all possible failure scenarios.