DataScience Workbook / 06. High-Performance Computing (HPC) / 1. Introduction to HPC infrastructure / 1.3 ISU HPC

HPC Clusters at ISU

High Performance Computing (HPC) refers to a cluster of interconnected computers or servers used to perform complex computational tasks. HPC clusters can process large amounts of data in a short time and can handle large computationally intensive jobs. General information about HPC clusters available at Iowa State University can be found at the ISU HPC Website ⤴.

Components of HPC Clusters at ISU

  • headnode or login node - used to log in, submit jobs, and view output
  • data transfer node - used for data transfers
  • compute nodes - different types including regular, fat, GPU, etc. are used for computations
  • Infiniband switch - connects all nodes

Research Clusters

  • Condo Computing Cluster - Free access cluster
  • Nova Computing Cluster - Faculty can purchase nodes and storage on this cluster

Education Cluster

  • HPC Class - These are partitions on Nova cluster dedicated to class use


  • Large Scale Storage - Storage service for ISU researchers

Logging in

To log in to Nova/Condo Clusters, you need to be connected to ISU network on-campus or use ISU VPN ⤴ if you are off-campus. The first time you try to log in to Nova or Condo, a new Google Authenticator (GA) account is created. You will need to use GA for login. The first time you use the Secure Shell ⤴ connection to Nova/Condo, it will respond with:

"host key not found, generate hostkey?(yes/no)"

You need to answer yes to continue.

Condo vs Nova Cluster

Feature Condo Nova
Login node
Data Transfer node
Cores per node 16/20/32/40 36/48/64/96
Home directory space 5 GB 5 GB
Workload Manager SLURM SLURM
Partitions Partitions List ⤴ Partitions List ⤴

Best Practices: Tips

  • Test your code/job on a small scale before submitting it to the cluster, if possible. This can help save time and resources as submitting a job often takes longer due to queue times and uses more resources. For example, you can use interactive nodes to find and fix errors before submitting a job.
  • Make sure your script is optimized for the cluster such that it uses the available resources efficiently.
  • Use proper documentation and version control such as Git to track changes and ease of reproducibility.
  • Manage your files appropriately on the cluster. Cleaning up unnecessary files and organising data/files is important.

Also check out the Project Management ⤴ guide for additional tips.

Where to find help?

Explore hands-on tutorials

Tutorials to get you started on different HPC Clusters are available in this workbook.

Guides provided by ISU

General guides

Data Transfers

  • For transferring data, use the File Transfers ⤴ guide. This uses Condo Data Transfer Node as an example (condodtn). Each cluster has its own data transfer node, for example, Nova cluster has novadtn.
  • Use Rclone ⤴ guide to sync data between HPC Clusters and Google Drive
  • Globus Connect ⤴ online data transfer system. Use Globus Connect Personal to copy data between a cluster and your personal computer

Additional guides

Further Reading

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