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Publicly Killable Computations

At our university department, people sometimes need to run expensive or long-term computations. We have few servers reserved for computations, but frequently it is useful to run computations on machines in the offices since some of them are fairly powerful and mostly get only very light use CPU-wise.

However, such computations must never impair any interactive or more pressing use of the machine. Therefore, we want to limit scheduling priority of the computations, limit total memory used by the computations and allow *anyone* kill *any* running computation. It turns out that this is not as trivial to achieve as I hoped.

In comes Computations under control: compctl – cgroup-based control of publicly limitable and stopable tasks. It is a tool that allows anyone to execute a command (or start screen) such that it is marked as a computation. Then, it allows anyone else to limit the total amount of memory allocated for all computations and to stop a specific computation or all computations on a machine. It uses cgroups to keep track of computations and limit the total memory usage, and a simple client-server architecture to perform priviledged tasks.

I hope it will be useful for someone else too. :-) Feel free to send in patches, and extra pairs of eyeballs checking the security would be welcome too. Top on my TODO list is simple debian package and a more verbose compctl –list output.

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