Computer Science OpenStack cluster and Virtual Machines¶
We provide virtual machines (VMs) as needed for students registered for courses in Computer Science. All virtual machines are hosted in an OpenStack cluster located in the basement of the Davis Marksbury Building.
The CS OpenStack Cluster is on a private IPv4 network. If you are on a external network you will need to connect to the Campus VPN first. If you are connected to a campus network like Eduroam you can connect directly to the OpenStack Dashboard or to your VM.
While you are on campus, don’t connect from network
access is not allowed from it. Also, don’t use wifiHelp to connect
to your VM, please use eduroam Wifi Network. If you are on
eduroam and are unable to access it, you are probably connected
using credentials from another institution. Remove/delete the
connection and reconnect with your
Please read the section titled UK Firewall and External connections when connecting from a external network to avoid connection timeouts.
You can manage your VM through the OpenStack
dashboard. The dashboard is helpful when the VM is non-responsive and needs to
be forcefully rebooted or for configuring the network firewall. However, the most efficient
method to connect and use your
VM is connecting using the instructions detailed in Connecting to your Virtual Machine.
Accessing the dashboard¶
You can access the dashboard by going to the OpenStack Dashboard. Enter your LinkBlue credentials for authentication.
OpenStack calls VMs “instances” and accounts “projects”. Your VM and project, as well as your login account on the VM, are all named after your LinkBlue ID. Upon logging in you should see an overview of your account and, at the bottom, your LinkBlue ID as a hyperlink. This is your VM instance. Click the link to open the management page for the VM. Click on the following picture to see a more detailed view of what you will see once you click on the Instances menu on the left.
When you click on the Instance Name of your VM, the tabs available give details of the VM as well as its firewall settings (called “Security Groups”), logs, and a console. Use the console only when NoMachine (see below) is not available, because NoMachine provides far better performance for a graphical desktop.
If the console is not responding to keyboard input, either (1) click the blue/grey status bar at the top of the console, or (2) click the “Click here to show only console” message, or (3) refresh the web page in your browser.
Connecting to your Virtual Machine¶
We create both Linux and Windows VMs. These VMs have a
entry setup which you should use to connect to your VM. For Linux
VMs the DNS hostname is linkblue.cs.uky.edu, for Windows VMs
the DNS address is linkblue-win.cs.uky.edu. However, in the case
of Windows, linkblue-win.ad.uky.edu should also work since the
machine is integrated with UK Campus’ Authentication Directory. In
both types of VMs you can use your
LinkBlue username to login.
When restarting your Linux VM please use
sudo reboot via
ssh whenever possible. If this is not possible then use the
There are different ways to connect to your VM. The method you select will depend on what you need to do on the machine, use the following index to select the most appropiate option for you:
- NoMachine client (Windows/Linux/Mac)
- Filezilla (Windows/Linux/Mac)
- PuTTY (Windows)
- Bitvise SSH Client (Windows)
- Command Line SSH client
- Other Connection Methods
VM is created and it’s running use the following methods to connect.
The next two sections will detail how to connect using a graphical client and a
If you want to explore alternative methods to connect please see the section Other Connection Methods
NoMachine client (Windows/Linux/Mac)¶
NoMachine provides a great experience when connecting to your VM’s Desktop. You can download it from NowMachine Downloads. There are versions for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Your VM already has NoMachine installed, and it’s accepting connections, for this reason what you need is the client part to be able to connect. Once you have installed NoMachine on your own computer (your laptop, for instance), follow the images below for guidance or check this Video for a quick review of the process.
<Click here to create a connection>.
Make sure the protocol is ‘NX’, then click Continue.
Enter the name of your VM (its DNS address) on the text field in the next screen.
Choose password authentication.
Most users do not need to configure a HTTP proxy.
Enter your LinkBlue credentials.
Configure the settings.
Display resolution can have a dramatic affect on performance. 1280x800 is a good initial setting.
Useful NoMachine Features¶
This subsection has some examples of what you can do with nomachine. If you need to copy information between the VM and your local machine this will help. For the best experience please play these videos on a computer or laptop.
- Connect your USB stick to the local machine, then Export your USB stick to your VM (read/write). Here you could also export your local disk to the VM.
- Export your VM’s disk to your local machine (read/write on your home directory)
Your VM is fully connected, for example if you need to submit information to Canvas you can connect with NoMachine and then open the web browser and connect to the site to do the required tasks. Since you have full control of your VM you can opt for a different browser (the default is Firefox) like Google Chrome/Chromium.
Command Line SSH client¶
If your VM runs Linux, you can connect to it from another Linux/Unix/Mac machine via SSH (Secure Shell). The connection command looks like this:
$ ssh email@example.com
SSH has the advantages of speed and accessibility, but it lacks a graphical user interface. If you are connecting from a machine running an X server able to receive forwarded X Windows connections over SSH, add -Y as a flag to the ssh command. Now you can run graphical applications on your VM and see them on your own machine. This setting and many more can be configured in an ssh configuration file; an example is included below.
File name: ~/.ssh/config
Host linkblueid.cs.uky.edu KexAlgorithms +diffie-hellman-group1-sha1 Ciphers aes256-ctr,aes256-cbc ForwardX11Trusted yes
In the example above, the first line specifies the host you are making a connection to. The lines immediately following are the configuration options specific to that host. See the man page for ssh_config(5) for more information.
Filezilla is an excellent FTP client with support for SFTP (SSH File
Transfer Protocol). In it’s most basic version, it’s free to use. This software
allows you to transfer files easily between your machine and your VM, among
other operations. Go to Filezilla Downloads
and get the
FileZilla Cient. If you are presented with three options, select
one that is not the Pro version. If the installation wizard asks if you want
additional software, just unselect the checkbox and continue. Once you have installed
FileZilla, proceed to open it.
You will see a window like the following:
File/Site Manager and use a configuration similar to the one in the
next picture. Insert your username (like abc123) and the DNS name for your VM
(like abc123.cs.uky.edu); then click
When you connect, you will see the following message:
To connect, you can go to the
Site Manager and select your session, or you
can simply click the arrow and select your session name, as in the following picture:
And when connected, you will see the directory contents of your VM, showing that your session is established:
PuTTY lets you to establish an
SSHv2 connection to your VM. To
set up a Putty session, you can
and scroll down to the section titled PuTTY session setup and public key authentication.
You don’t need to set up the public authentication part if you don’t want (skip the first image and paragraph);
just create the session using your username (like abc123) and the name of the remote host (your
VM’s name, such as abc123.cs.uky.edu, or a CS Server’s name if you need/have access)
and save the new session as detailed in the document.
Bitvise SSH Client (Windows)¶
This is an SSH client and also a file-transfer program. Follow these instructions to install the software, configure a profile and establish a connection. Download the software from Bitvise SSH Client. After opening the program for the first time you will see a window like this:
The first step is to make a profile and save it. Click New Profile in the left panel and save the file with the profile information in a convenient folder.
In the Server section, enter your VM’s hostname (like abc123.cs.uky.edu) and the port (22). Enter your username (like abc123) in the Authentication section. For initial method, select password, and leave everything else alone. Then click Login. You will see a window like the following:
Type your password. After the connection is established, you will see a terminal window and a file-transfer window, which you can use to interact with your VM.
By default, Bitvise sends keep-alive packets every 20 seconds to the server. This feature prevents your connection from timing out.
OpenStack Network Firewall¶
The default firewall settings for your VM block all ports except for the ones used by the SSH server and the NoMachine server. Although you may adjust your VM’s firewall settings, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Open ports can be a security risk.
Creating Firewall rules on your VM¶
One of the reasons to create a new firewall rule is to allow ingress traffic directed to your VM to a specific port. Let’s say that you
need to open port
1280/tcp on your VM because you are working on an application that needs to bind to a specific port and you need
to test it, etc.
Creating a firewall rule could lead to unauthorized access to non-secured applications that are listening on a socket. Make sure you don’t expose any sensitive or private information from your application (the one listening on the network port)
The Computer Science OpenStack Cluster’s networking runs using a Private IPv4 subnet, this means that external network access (Internet) it’s not allowed directly to the VMs, and this protects the VMs further from internet attacks, etc., however the VMs are still accessible all over campus so it’s always good practice to exercise care on services listening on sockets.
By default any incoming connection to most ports are not allowed, to create a rule (using the port 1280/tcp as an example) to allow this traffic execute the following steps:
Login on the OpenStack Dashboard
On the left, look for the menu
Networkand click on it, then click on
You will see your Security Group(s). Normally there is only one that is called
default. You need to select the checkbox on the left of it and click on
Manage Ruleson the right to see all your security rules (firewall rules) that are applied for your VM from the OpenStack’s network functions.
To create a rule to allow incoming traffic to port
1280/tcpdo the following.
- Click on
Rule *Select the protocol, the next example assume you use the option
Custom TCP Rule
- Put a description (can be anything that describes the purpose of your rule)
- Select the
Direction, here we need to allow incoming traffic to port
1280so we select
- By default
Portis selected and below that we must specify which port is the destination, in this case we write
1280in the text field.
Remoteleave it as
CIRD, in the text field below leave it as
0.0.0.0/0if you want to allow traffic from all remote IP addresses. Otherwise, you will neeed to specify the remote address, something like
172.31.49.87/32to specify a single IP address or
172.31.49.128/25to specify a subnet, for example.
- EtherType is by default at IPv4 since the Computer Science OpenStack cluster don’t use IPv6.
- Click the
Addbutton to submit the rule and it will take effect inmediately. Proceed to your VM for further testing.
- Click on
Your VM should now receive incoming traffic if the rule was correctly specified. All other options to create rules are very similar, make sure you exercise care when creating firewall rules.
UK Firewall and External connections¶
The UK edge Firewall timeout idle connections, this means that if you are connecting from a network outside UK and your session is idle for a few minutes this connection will drop, causing a disconnection. To make sure your external connections won’t timeout follow these steps.
If you prefer to connect using the command line use the following configuration.
Edit the file
~/.ssh/config and add the following:
Host * ServerAliveInterval 60 ServerAliveCountMax 3
For Windows/Unix/Mac (PuTTY)¶
If you are using PuTTY you should have a session saved and you use this session
to connect to the server(s). Click your session name (if you have more than one
please repeat these steps on all your UK sessions) and click
On the left panel, scroll down and click Connection, in the right side
of the Window look at the top, it will say
Seconds between keepalives, it’s
by default on 0 which is disabled. Write a reasonable number of seconds, 60
seems to be a good number, in this way the ssh client will send keep alives packets to the
server keeping the connection up.
To save the new configuration, on the left panel scroll up to
Session and click the session
you modified, then click
Save. The next time you use the session to ssh into a remote host
this keep alive configuration will prevent connection timeouts by sending periodic (based on the
number of seconds set)
SSH NULL packets to the server, in this way the UK firewall will refresh
the timeout timer for your connection and it will not be droppped at the edge of the ingress network.