Getting started with AWS ParallelCluster

AWS ParallelCluster is an AWS supported Open Source cluster management tool that makes it easy for you to deploy and manage High Performance Computing (HPC) clusters in the AWS cloud. Built on the Open Source CfnCluster project, AWS ParallelCluster enables you to quickly build an HPC compute environment in AWS. It automatically sets up the required compute resources and a shared filesystem and offers a variety of batch schedulers such as AWS Batch, SGE, Torque, and Slurm. AWS ParallelCluster facilitates both quick start proof of concepts (POCs) and production deployments. You can build higher level workflows, such as a Genomics portal that automates the entire DNA sequencing workflow, on top of AWS ParallelCluster.

Installing AWS ParallelCluster

The current working version is aws-parallelcluster-2.1. The CLI is written in Python and uses BOTO for AWS actions. You can install the CLI with the following commands, depending on your OS.


$ sudo pip install aws-parallelcluster


Windows support is experimental!!

Install the following packages:

Once installed, you should update the Environment Variables to have the Python install directory and Python Scripts directory in the PATH, for example: C:\Python36-32;C:\Python36-32\Scripts

Now it should be possible to run the following within a command prompt window:

C:\> pip install aws-parallelcluster


To upgrade an older version of AWS ParallelCluster, you can use either of the following commands, depending on how it was originally installed:

$ sudo pip install --upgrade aws-parallelcluster

Remember when upgrading to check that the existing config is compatible with the latest version installed.

Configuring AWS ParallelCluster

Once installed you will need to setup some initial config. The easiest way to do this is below:

$ pcluster configure

This configure wizard will prompt you for everything you need to create your cluster. You will first be prompted for your cluster template name, which is the logical name of the template you will create a cluster from.

Cluster Template [mycluster]:

Next, you will be prompted for your AWS Access & Secret Keys. Enter the keys for an IAM user with administrative privileges. These can also be read from your environment variables or the AWS CLI config.

AWS Access Key ID []:
AWS Secret Access Key ID []:

Now, you will be presented with a list of valid AWS region identifiers. Choose the region in which you’d like your cluster to run.

Acceptable Values for AWS Region ID:
AWS Region ID []:

Choose a descriptive name for your VPC. Typically, this will be something like production or test.

VPC Name [myvpc]:

Next, you will need to choose a key pair that already exists in EC2 in order to log into your master instance. If you do not already have a key pair, refer to the EC2 documentation on EC2 Key Pairs.

Acceptable Values for Key Name:
Key Name []:

Choose the VPC ID into which you’d like your cluster launched.

Acceptable Values for VPC ID:
VPC ID []:

Finally, choose the subnet in which you’d like your master server to run.

Acceptable Values for Master Subnet ID:
Master Subnet ID []:

Next, a simple cluster launches into a VPC and uses an existing subnet which supports public IP’s i.e. the route table for the subnet is => igw-xxxxxx. The VPC must have DNS Resolution = yes and DNS Hostnames = yes. It should also have DHCP options with the correct domain-name for the region, as defined in the docs: VPC DHCP Options.

Once all of those settings contain valid values, you can launch the cluster by running the create command:

$ pcluster create mycluster

Once the cluster reaches the “CREATE_COMPLETE” status, you can connect using your normal SSH client/settings. For more details on connecting to EC2 instances, check the EC2 User Guide.

Moving from CfnCluster to AWS ParallelCluster

AWS ParallelCluster is an enhanced and productized version of CfnCluster.

If you are a previous CfnCluster user, we encourage you to start using and creating new clusters only with AWS ParallelCluster. Although you can still use CfnCluster, it will no longer be developed.

The main differences between CfnCluster and AWS ParallelCluster are listed below.

AWS ParallelCluster CLI manages a different set of clusters

Clusters created by cfncluster CLI cannot be managed with pcluster CLI. The following commands will no longer work on clusters created by CfnCluster:

pcluster list
pcluster update cluster_name
pcluster start cluster_name
pcluster status cluster_name

You need to use the cfncluster CLI to manage your old clusters.

If you need an old CfnCluster package to manage your old clusters, we recommend you install and use it from a Python Virtual Environment.

Distinct IAM Custom Policies

Custom IAM Policies, previously used for CfnCluster cluster creation, cannot be used with AWS ParallelCluster. If you require custom policies you need to create the new ones by following IAM in AWS ParallelCluster guide.

Different configuration files

The AWS ParallelCluster configuration file resides in the ~/.parallelcluster folder, unlike the CfnCluster one that was created in the ~/.cfncluster folder.

You can still use your existing configuration file but this needs to be moved from ~/.cfncluster/config to ~/.parallelcluster/config.

If you use the extra_json configuration parameter, it must be changed as described below:

extra_json = { "cfncluster" : { } }

has been changed to

extra_json = { "cluster" : { } }

Ganglia disabled by default

Ganglia is disabled by default. You can enable it by setting the extra_json parameter as described below:

extra_json = { "cluster" : { "ganglia_enabled" : "yes" } }

and changing the Master SG to allow connections to port 80. The parallelcluster-<CLUSTER_NAME>-MasterSecurityGroup-<xxx> Security Group has to be modified by adding a new Security Group Rule to allow Inbound connection to the port 80 from your Public IP.