FAQ: General Administration

General questions about the administration of the HECToR service.

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Q. Who runs HECToR?

A. HECToR is provided by the HECToR partners: EPCC, Cray Inc, NAG Ltd and STFC Daresbury Laboratory. Service provision is directed by UoE HPCx Ltd, which is owned by the University of Edinburgh, and also provides the HPCx service.

HECToR operates within contracts between the consortium and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). EPSRC acts as an agent for the UK Research Councils, who fund the entire service. The disposition of the time and other resources of the service is therefore in the hands of EPSRC. A part of the resources is reserved for commercial and industrial use, and this is available to be bought. The rest is allocated to research projects which are funded by the Research Councils.

Q. How can I start a project on HECToR?

Please see the application information page.

Q. How are projects organised?

A. We set up a project on the service when we are directed by EPSRC to do so. EPSRC tell us who the Principal Investigator (PI) is, and what resources the project should have. The PI is in charge of that project. They decide who can get access to the service as part of the project, and how the resources are used.

Administration of the project is mostly done through the SAFE software suite. Any user of the service can use SAFE, but PIs have special privileges to enable them to administer their projects. Some PIs prefer not to do the day-to-day administration themselves; instead, they can designate project managers, who will have most of the PI's privileges.

Some projects, especially large ones, prefer to work as a number of sub-projects. In SAFE terminology, these are called project groups. The PI or project manager can create project groups, decide their memberships and allocate resources for their exclusive use. A user can belong to more than one project group.

Q. What is SAFE?

A. SAFE stands for Service Administration from EPCC. It is a large web-based application, provided by EPCC for HECToR. The same software is used by the HPCx service.

Every user of HECToR has an account on SAFE. You can use your SAFE account to check your use of time and space now and in the past, to apply to join other projects and create service machine accounts, to change passwords, to keep your personal details up to date, to request higher priority for a job, to check the progress of the helpdesk queries you have submitted, to use the token system to express your feelings about HECToR, and so on. PIs and project managers can do many other things.

The HECToR team also uses SAFE to administer the system and to generate reports. The helpdesk software is also part of SAFE.

The SAFE database is administered according to the HECToR Personal Data and Privacy Policy. Although the same software is used to administer HECToR, HPCx and EPCC's own services, the databases are entirely separate and held on different servers.

Q. How are resources organised?

A. EPSRC only allocates computer time to projects. This time is measured is allocation units (kAUs). The kAU measures time only, not disk space or anything else; it is not a generic token and cannot be traded for other resources. This page discusses how the kAU is used to measure time, and how the nominal cost of a project is calculated.

We allocate disk space. We take into account the space requested in the project's grant application, the amount of time they have asked for and how much space we have available. More space is allocated if needed, and if it's available. Disk space is allocated in two classes: homespace, which is backed up, and workspace, which is not.

Each project is assigned a code, such as t01. Within the project there may be a number of project groups. In fact, there are always at least two:

  • The general group, which has the same code as the project itself. Every member of the project is a member of this group, so its resources are available to them all.
  • The reserve project group, which has a name of form t01-reserve. It has no members, so no one can use its resources. It can be used to hold resources which the PI wishes to keep in reserve for later use.

The other project groups have codes of the form t01-abcd, and their memberships are decided by the PI or project manager. PIs and project managers can move resources between these project groups.

Each project group has a budget with the same name as the project group. Budgets are used to store time, measured in kAUs. When you run a job, you must specify which budget you are using. The time you use is then taken from that budget. Once the time in the budget is used up, you cannot run a job.

Project groups may also have their own disk quotas. This isn't compulsory, however, and many projects prefer their project groups to share the disk space without quotas. (Project group quotas have to be implemented using Unix group quotas, which are barely adequate for the task.)

Q. How are accounts organised?

A. There are two kinds of account on HECToR: accounts on SAFE, and accounts on the service machine itself. Most users will have one of each, although PIs may choose to have a SAFE account.

If you belong to more than one project, you may like to have a separate account on the service machine for each of them. Alternatively, you can use the same account. If you do this, you will log in to your directory in the homespace of the first project you joined, and you will have to move to the project you wish to work in.

No matter how many service machine accounts you have, you should have only one SAFE account.

Q. Where can I find the Terms and Conditions of Access and other policy documents?

Please see the policies page.

Q. How does the helpdesk work? How can I send in a query?

Please see the helpdesk page.

Q. How should I acknowledge HECToR in my publications?

Please see the acknowledgement page.


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