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Ask Slashdot: Linux Login and Resource Management In a Computer Lab? 98 98

New submitter rongten (756490) writes I am managing a computer lab composed of various kinds of Linux workstations, from small desktops to powerful workstations with plenty of RAM and cores. The users' $HOME is NFS mounted, and they either access via console (no user switch allowed), ssh or x2go. In the past, the powerful workstations were reserved to certain power users, but now even "regular" students may need to have access to high memory machines for some tasks. Is there a sort of resource management that would allow the following tasks? To forbid a same user to log graphically more than once (like UserLock); to limit the amount of ssh sessions (i.e. no user using distcc and spamming the rest of the machines, or even worse, running in parallel); to give priority to the console user (i.e. automatically renicing remote users jobs and restricting their memory usage); and to avoid swapping and waiting (i.e. all the users trying to log into the latest and greatest machine, so have a limited amount of logins proportional to the capacity of the machine). The system being put in place uses Fedora 20, and LDAP PAM authentication; it is Puppet-managed, and NFS based. In the past I tried to achieve similar functionality via cron jobs, login scripts, ssh and nx management, and queuing system — but it is not an elegant solution, and it is hacked a lot. Since I think these requirements should be pretty standard for a computer lab, I am surprised to see that I cannot find something already written for it. Do you know of a similar system, preferably open source? A commercial solution could be acceptable as well.
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Ask Slashdot: Linux Login and Resource Management In a Computer Lab?

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  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @02:00PM (#47509279)

    Seems like you are trying to work out a solution to a problem you don't have yet. Maybe first see if users are just willing to play nice. Get a powerful system and let them have at it. That's what we do. I work for an engineering college and we have a fairly large Linux server that is for instructional use. Students can log in and run the provided programs. Our resource management? None, unless the system is getting hit hard, in which case we will see what is happening and maybe manually nice something or talk to a user. We basically never have to. People use it to do their assignments and go about their business.

    Hardware is fairly cheap, so you can throw a lot of power at the problem. Get a system with a decent amount of cores and RAM and you'll probably find out that it is fine.

    Now, if things become a repeated problem then sure, look at a technical solution. However don't go getting all draconian without a reason. You may just be wasting your time and resources.

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @02:02PM (#47509299) Homepage

    Have these problems actually been happening a lot?

    When I first started to help manage a computer lab, I was concerned users would behave really badly and do horrible things. The truth is, very few users did, and we just talked to those users and told them how to behave.

    If you get the occasional repeatedly defiant user, locking out their account can be the final solution. But most people (at least at our site) aren't jerks and listen. Most "bad things" are due more to incompetence than malice, and educating students is easy.

    Also, as someone with experience in these matters, allow me to recommend AGAINST Fedora for production systems. I like to call Fedora the self-breaking distro; updates break things CONSTANTLY. You're much better off running Ubuntu (even non-LTS is more stable than Fedora) or the RHEL clones like CentOS or Scientific Linux.

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @02:34PM (#47509519) Homepage

    If your users can't play nice together, the solution isn't to treat the place like a prison with automated systems enforcing a hard and fast set of rules.

    The solution is for users to create their own enforcement. If some guy tries to take all the resources across your network with distcc, then the people affected should be able to notice that and tell the guy to knock that the fuck off.

    In other words, give the users the freedom to break stuff, but also the knowledge to find out who'd breaking their stuff. It'll serve them far better than creating a walled garden where someone else has the responsibility to enforce social rules.

    Slashdot and reddit work this way. Neither go around trying to enforce how people behave, they give the users the power to do that themself.

  • by mrvis (462390) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @02:42PM (#47509579)

    I would be terrified if you were my co-worker.

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