Compute Sessions

The most visited pages in the Backend.AI Web-UI would be the Sessions and Data & Storage pages. Here, you will learn how to query and create container-based compute sessions and utilize various web applications on the Sessions page.

Start a new session

After logging in with a user account, click Sessions on the left sidebar to visit the Sessions page. Sessions page lets you start new sessions or use and manage existing running sessions.


Click the START button to start a new compute session. The following setup dialog will appear. You can specify the language environment (Environments and Version) and the amount of resources you want to allocate. Set the CPU and memory as shown in the following figure and click the LAUNCH button.


If you need more detailed settings, refer to the meaning of each items.

  • Environments: Specify the default environment for compute sessions such as TensorFlow, PyTorch, C++, etc. When you select a TensorFlow environment, your compute session will automatically include the TensorFlow library. If you select another environment, the corresponding environment is installed by default.
  • Version: Selects the version of the environment. For TensorFlow environment, for example, you can select different versions such as 1.15, 2.3, etc.
  • Resource Group: Specifies the resource group in which to create the compute session. If there are multiple resource groups, you can select the desired one, but if there is only one resource group, it cannot be changed.
  • Session name (optional): Specifies the name of the compute session to be created. If specified, this name appears in Session Info, making it easy to distinguish it from other compute sessions. If not specified, a randomly-generated name is assigned. You can set the session name up to 4 to 64 characters only with alphabetical characters or numbers and no spaces are allowed.
  • Folder to mount: Specifies the data folders to be mounted in the compute session. When a compute session is deleted, all data is deleted altogether by default, but the data stored in the folder mounted here is not deleted.
  • Set Environment Variable: Provides customized environment variable before creating a session.
  • Resource allocation: This is a template that has predefined resources to be allocated to the compute session. You can save and use frequently used resource settings in advance. Resource templates can be managed in a dedicated admin Control-Panel.
  • CPU: The number of CPU cores to allocate to the compute session. The maximum value depends on the resource policy applied to the user.
  • RAM: The amount of memory (GB) to allocate to the compute session. The maximum value depends on the resource policy applied to the user.
  • Shared Memory: The amount of shared memory (GB) to allocate to the compute session. It can be set up to 2 GB by default (can be configured by admins)and cannot be greater than the amount specified in RAM.
  • GPU: The unit of GPU to allocate to the compute session. The maximum value depends on the resource policy applied to the user.
  • Sessions: The number of compute sessions to be created with the specified settings. You can specify this value when you need to create the same computational sessions at once.

If no folder is specified in “Folders to mount”, a warning dialog may appear indicating that no storage folder is mounted.

Notification dialog when no storage folder is mounted to the session

You may ignore the warning, but it is recommended to mount at least one storage folder because terminating a compute session by default deletes all the data inside the session. If you specify a folder to mount and save your data in that folder, you can keep the data even if the compute session is terminated. Data preserved in the storage folder can also be reused by re-mounting it when creating another compute session. For the information on how to mount a folder and run a compute session, see Mounting Folders to a Compute Session.

Now a new compute session is created in the RUNNING tab.


In the RUNNING tab, you can check the information on the currently running sessions. FINISHED tab shows the list of terminated sessions and OTHERS tab shows the compute sessions with errors. For each session, you can check the information such as session environments, the amount of allocated and used resources, session starting time, etc.


Superadmins can query all compute session information currently running (or terminated) in the cluster, and users can view only the sessions they have created.


Compute session list may not be displayed normally due to intermittent network connection problems, and etc. This can be solved by refreshing the browser page.


The resource statistics are displayed at the top of the screen. You can check the amount of resources currently used and the total amount of resources that can be allocated. The display bars are divided into upper and lower parts. The upper part shows the resource allocation status in the current scaling group and the lower part shows the allocation status of total accessible resources.

  • Upper: (Resources allocated by the user in the current scaling group) / (Total resources allocatable by the user in the current scaling group)
  • Lower: (Resources allocated by the user) / (Resources allocated by the user + Total resources allocatable by the user in the current scaling group)


If the GPU resource is marked as FGPU, this means that the server is serving the GPU resources in a virtualized form. Backend.AI supports GPU virtualization technology that a single physical GPU can be divided and shared by multiple users for better utilization. Therefore, if you want to execute a task that does not require a large amount of GPU computation, you can create a compute session by allocating only a portion of a GPU. The amount of GPU resources that 1 FGPU actually allocates may vary from system to system depending on the administrator’s setting. For example, if administrator has set to split one physical GPU into five pieces, 5 FGPU means 1 physical GPU, or 1 FGPU means 0.2 physical GPU. At this configuration, if you create a compute session by allocating 1 FGPU, you can utilize SM (streaming multiprocessor) and GPU memory corresponding to 0.2 physical GPU for the session.

Use Jupyter Notebook

Let’s look at how to use and manage compute sessions that are already running. If you look at the Control panel of the session list, there are several icons. When you click the first icon, the app launcher pops up and shows the available app services as below.



There are two check options under the app icons. Opening the app with each item checked applies the following features, respectively:

  • Open app to public: Open the app to the public. Basically, web services such as Terminal and Jupyter Notebook services are not accessible by other users, even if the user knows the service URL, since they are considered unauthenticated. However, checking this option makes it possible for anyone who knows the service URL (and port number) to access and use it. Of course, the user must have a network path to access the service.
  • Try preferred port: Without this option checked, a port number for the web service is randomly assigned from the port pool prepared in advance by Backend.AI. If you check this item and enter a specific port number, the entered port number will be tried first. However, there is no guarantee that the desired port will always be assigned because the port may not exist at all in the port pool or another service may already be using the port. In this case, the port number is randomly assigned.

Depending on the system configuration, these options may not be shown.

Let’s click on Jupyter Notebook.


A new window pops up and you can see that Jupyter Notebook is running. This notebook was created inside a running compute session and can be used easily with the click of a button without any other settings. Also, there is no need for a separate package installation process because the language environment and library provided by the computation session can be used as it is. For detailed instructions on how to use Jupyter Notebook, please refer to the official documentation.

In the notebook’s file explorer, the id_container file contains a private SSH key. If necessary, you can download it and use it for SSH / SFTP access to the container.

Click the NEW button at the top right and select the Notebook for Backend.AI, then the ipynb window appears where you can enter your own code.


In this window, you can enter and execute any code you want by using the environment that session provides. The code is executed on one of the Backend.AI nodes where the compute session is actually created and there is no need to configure a separate environment on the local machine.


When you close the window, you can find that the Untitled.ipynb file is created in the notebook file explorer. Note that the files created here are deleted when you terminate the session. The way to preserve those files even after the session is terminated is described in the Data & Storage Folders section.


Use web terminal

Return to the Session list page. This time, let’s launch the terminal. Click the terminal icon (the second button in the Control panel) to use the container’s ttyd daemon. A terminal will appear in a new window and you can run shell commands to access the computational session as shown in the following figure. If you are familiar with using commands, you can easily run various Linux commands. You may notice that the Untitled.ipynb file automatically generated in Jupyter Notebook is listed with the ls command. This shows that both apps are running in the same container environment.


If you create a file here, you can immediately see it in the Jupyter Notebook you opened earlier as well. Conversely, changes made to files in Jupyter Notebook can also be checked right from the terminal. This is because they are using the same files in the same compute session.

In addition to this, you can use web-based services such as TensorBoard, Jupyter Lab, etc., depending on the type of environments provided by the compute session.

Query compute session log

You can view the log of the compute session by clicking the last icon in the Control panel of the running compute session.


Delete a compute session

To terminate a specific session, simply click on the red power icon and click OKAY button in the dialog. Since the data in the folder inside the compute session is deleted as soon as the compute session ends, it is recommended to move the data to the mounted folder or upload it to the mounted folder from the beginning if you want to keep it.


How to add environment variable before creating a session

To give more convenient workspace for users, Backend.AI supports environment variable setting in session launching. In this feature, you can add any envs such as PATH by filling out variable name and value in environment configuration dialog.

To add environment variable, simply click CONFIG button.

Env Configuration Button

and then, environment configuration dialog appears.

In this dialog, you can add,update and delete written env variables. To see more information about how it works, please click ‘i’ button at the header of the dialog.

Env Configuration info

You can input variable name and value in the same line of the input fields. Then, click save button. It will be applied in the session.


If you close the dialog without click saving variables or If you didn’t fill out the variable and value, then those input values will not be applied into the session as env. Please remind that every variable and value that is not empty will be applied to session by clicking SAVE button.

Env config dialog closing confirmation

To Add more environment variables, yon can click + button in the right side of the first row of input field. Also, you can remove the variable by clicking - button of the row that you want to get rid of.

If you want to delete the whole variables and value, please click DELETE ALL button at the bottom of the dialog.

Advanced web terminal usage

The web-based terminal internally embeds a utility called tmux. tmux is a terminal multiplexer that supports to open multiple shell windows within a single shell, so as to allow multiple programs to run in foreground simultaneously. If you want to take advantage of more powerful tmux features, you can refer to the official tmux documentation and other usage examples on the Internet.

Here we are introducing some simple but useful features.

Copy terminal contents

tmux offers a number of useful features, but it’s a bit confusing for first-time users. In particular, tmux has its own clipboard buffer, so when copying the contents of the terminal, you can suffer from the fact that it can be pasted only within tmux by default. Furthermore, it is difficult to expose user system’s clipboard to tmux inside web browser, so the terminal contents cannot be copied and pasted to other programs of user’s computer. The so-called Ctrl-C / Ctrl-V is not working with tmux.

If you need to copy and paste the terminal contents to your system’s clipboard, you can temporarily turn off tmux’s mouse support. First, press Ctrl-B key to enter tmux control mode. Then type :set -g mouse off and press Enter (note that you have to type the first colon as well). You can check what you are typing in the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Then drag the desired text from the terminal with the mouse and press the Ctrl-C or Cmd-C (in Mac) to copy them to the clipboard of the user’s computer.

With mouse support turned off, you cannot scroll through the mouse wheel to see the contents of the previous page from the terminal. In this case, you can turn on mouse support again. Press Ctrl-B, and this time, type :set -g mouse on. Now you can scroll mouse wheel to see the contents of the previous page.

If you remember :set -g mouse off or :set -g mouse on after Ctrl-B, you can use the web terminal more conveniently.


Ctrl-B is tmux’s default control mode key. If you set another control key by modifying .tmux.conf in user home directory, you should press the set key combination instead of Ctrl-B.

Check the terminal history using keyboard

There is also a way to copy the terminal contents and check the previous contents of the terminal simultaneously. It is to check the previous contents using the keyboard. Again, click Ctrl-B first, and then press the Page Up and/or Page Down keys. You can see that you navigate through the terminal’s history with just keyboard. To exit search mode, just press the q key. With this method, you can check the contents of the terminal history even when the mouse support is turned off to allow copy and paste.

Spawn multiple shells

The main advantage of tmux is that you can launch and use multiple shells in one terminal window. Since seeing is believing, let’s press the Ctrl-B key and then the c. You can see that the contents of the existing window disappears and a new shell environment appears. But the previous window is not terminated. Let’s press Ctrl-B and then w. You can now see the list of shells currently open on tmux like following image. Here, the shell starting with 0: is the shell environment you first saw, and the shell starting with 1: is the one you just created. You can move between shells using the up/down keys. Place the cursor on the shell 0: and press the Enter key to select it.

tmux's multiple session management

You can see the first shell environment appears. In this way, you can use multiple shell environments within a web terminal. To exit or terminate the current shell, just enter exit command or press Ctrl-B x key and then type y.

In summary:

  • Ctrl-B c: create a new tmux shell
  • Ctrl-B w: query current tmux shells and move around among them
  • exit or Ctrl-B x: terminate the current shell

Combining the above commands allows you to perform various tasks simultaneously on multiple shells.