ParaView/Users Guide/Starting Parallel Servers

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Client / Server Mode

Client / Server Mode refers to a parallel ParaView session in which data server and render server components reside within the same set of processes, and the client is completely separate. The pvserver executable combines the two server components into one process.

You can run pvserver as a serial process on a single machine. If ParaView was compiled with parallel support, you can also run it as an MPI parallel program on a group of machines. Instructions for starting a program with MPI are implementation and system-dependent, so contact your system administrator for information about starting an application with MPI. With the MPICH implementation of MPI, the command to start the server in parallel usually follows the format shown here:

mpirun –np number_of_processes path_to/pvserver arguments for pvserver

By default, pvserver will start and then wait for the client to connect to it. See the next section for a full description. Briefly, to make the connection, select Connection from the File menu, select (or make and then select) a configuration for the server, and click Connect. Note that you must start the server before the client attempts to connect to it.

If the computer running the server is behind a firewall, it is useful to have the server initiate the connection instead of the client. The ‑-reverse-connection (or -rc) command-line option tells the server to do this. The server must know the name of the machine to which it should connect; this is specified with the --client-host (or -ch) argument. Note that when the connection is reversed, you must start the client and instruct it to wait for a connection before the server attempts to connect to it.

The client-to-server connection is made over TCP, using a default port of 11111. If your firewall puts restrictions on TCP ports, you may want to choose a different port number. In the client dialog, simply choose a port number in the Port entry of the Configure New Server dialog. Meanwhile, give pvserver the same port number by including --server-port (or –sp) in its command-line argument list.

An example command line to start the server and have it initiate the connection to a particular client on a particular port number is given below:

pvserver –rc –ch=magrathea –sp=26623

Render/Server Mode

The render server allows you to designate a separate group of machines (i.e., apart from the data server and the client) to perform rendering. This parallel mode lets you use dedicated rendering machines for parallel rendering rather than relying on the data server machines, which may have limited or no rendering capabilities. In ParaView, the number of machines (N) composing the render server must be no more than the number (M) composing the data server.

Note that it is true that some large installations with particularly high-performing, parallel rendering resources it can be very efficient to run ParaView in Render/Server Mode. However, we have found in practice that it is almost always the case that the data transfer time between the two servers overwhelms the speed gained by rendering on the dedicated graphics cluster. For this reason, we typically recommend that you combine the data and render servers together as one component, and either render in software via Mesa on the data processing cluster or do all of the visualization processing directly on the GPU cluster.

If you still want to break-up the data processing and rendering tasks, there are two sets of connections that must be made for ParaView to run in render-server mode. The first connection set is between the client and the first node of each of the data and render servers. The second connection set is between the nodes of the render server and the first n nodes of the data server. Once all of these connections are established, they are bi-directional. The diagram in Figure 11.3 depicts the connections established when ParaView is running in render server mode. Each double-ended arrow indicates a bi-directional TCP connection between pairs of machines. The dashed lines represent MPI connections between all machines within a server. In all the diagrams in this section, the render server nodes are denoted by RS 0, RS 1, …, RS N. The data server nodes are similarly denoted by DS 0, DS 1, …, DS N, …, DS M.

Figure 12.3 Connections required in render server mode

The establishment of connections between client and servers can either be forward (from client-to-servers) or reverse (from servers-to-client). Likewise, the connections between render server and data server nodes can be established either from the data server to the render server, or from the render server to the data server.

The main reason for reversing the direction of any of the initial connections is that machines behind firewalls are able to initiate connections to machines outside the firewall, but not vice versa. If the data server is behind a firewall, the data server should initiate the connection with the client, and the data server nodes should connect to the render server nodes. If the render server is behind the firewall instead, both servers should initiate connections to the client, but the render server nodes should initiate the connections with the nodes of the data server.

In the remaining diagrams in this section, each arrow indicates the direction in which the connection is initially established. Double-ended arrows indicate bi-directional connections that have already been established. In the example command lines, optional arguments are enclosed in []’s. The rest of this section will be devoted to discussing the two connections required for running ParaView in render server mode.

Connection 1: Connecting the client and servers

The first connection that must be established is between the client and the first node of both the data and render servers. By default, the client initiates the connection to each server, as shown in Figure 11.4. In this case, both the data server and the render server must be running before the client attempts to connect to them.

Figure 12.4 Starting ParaView in render-server mode using standard connections

To establish the connections shown above, do the following. First, from the command line of the machine that will run the data server, enter pvdataserver to start it. Next, from the command line of the machine that will run the render server, enter pvrenderserver to start the render server. Now, from the machine that will run the client, start the client application, and connect to the running servers, as described in section 1.2 and summarized below.

Start ParaView and select Connect from the File menu to open the Choose Server dialog. Select Add Server to open the Configure New Server dialog. Create a new server connection with a Server Type of Client / Data Server / Render Server. Enter the machine names or IP addresses of the server machines in the Host entries. Select Configure, and then in the Configure Server dialog, choose Manual. Save the server configuration and connect to it. At this point, ParaView will establish the two connections. This is similar to running ParaView in client/server mode, but with the addition of a render server.

The connection between the client and the servers can also be initiated by the servers. As explained above, this is useful when the servers are running on machines behind a firewall. In this case, the client must be waiting for both servers when they start. The diagram indicating the initial connections is shown in Figure 11.5.

Figure 12.5 Reversing the connections between the servers and the client

To establish the connections shown above, start by opening the Configure New Server dialog on the client. Choose Client|Data Server|Render Server (reverse connection) for the Server Type in the Configure New Server dialog. Next, add both --reverse-connection (-rc) and --client-host (-ch) to the command lines for the data server and render server. The value of the --client-host parameter is the name or IP address of the machine running the client. You can use the default port numbers for these connections, or you can specify ports in the client dialog by adding the --data-server-port (–dsp) and --render-server-port (–rsp) command-line arguments to the data server and render server command lines. The port numbers for each server must agree with the corresponding Port entries in the dialog, and they must be different from each other.

For the remainder of this chapter, -rc will be used instead of --reverse-connection when the connection between the client and the servers is to be reversed.

Connection 2: Connecting the render and data servers

After the connections are made between the client and the two servers, the servers will establish connections with each other. In parallel runs, this server-to-server connection is a set of connections between all N nodes of the render server and the first N nodes of the data server. By default, the data server initiates the connection to the render server, but this can be changed with a configuration file. The format of this file is described below.

The server that initiates the connection must know the name of the machine running the other server and the port number it is using. In parallel runs, each node of the connecting server must know the name of the machine for the corresponding process in the other server to which it should connect. The port numbers are randomly assigned, but they can be assigned in the configuration file as described below.

The default set of connections is illustrated in Figure 11.6. To establish these connections, you must give the data server the connection information discussed above, which you specify within a configuration file. Use the --machines (–m) command line argument to tell the data server the name of the configuration file. In practice, the same file should be given to all three ParaView components. This ensures that the client, the render server, and the data server all agree on the network parameters.

Figure 12.6 Initializing the connection from the data server to the render server

An example network configuration file, called machines.pvx in this case, is given below:

<?xml version="1.0" ?>

  <Process Type="client">>

  <Process Type="render-server">
    <Option Name="render-node-port" Value="1357"/>
    <Machine Name="rs_m1" 
    <Machine Name="rs_m2"

  <Process Host="data-server">
    <Machine Name="ds_m1" />
    <Machine Name="ds_m2" />
    <Machine Name="ds_m3" />
    <Machine Name="ds_m4" />


Sample command-line arguments that use the configuration file above to initiate the network illustrated in Figure 11.6 are given below:

mpirun –np 2 pvdataserver –m=machines.pvx

mpirun –np 2 pvrenderserver -m=machines.pvx

paraview –m=machines.pvx

It should be noted that the machine configuration file discussed here is a distinct entity and has a different syntax from the server configuration file discussed at the end of the next section. That file is read only by the client; the file discussed here will be given to the client and both servers.

In the machine file above, the render-node-port entry in the render server’s XML element tells the render server the port number on which it should listen for a connection from the data server, and it tells the data server what port number it should attempt to contact. This entry is optional and if it does not appear in the file, the port number will be chosen automatically. Note that it is not possible to assign port numbers to individual machines within the server; all will be given the same port number or use the automatically-chosen one. Note also that each render server machine is given a display environment variable in this file. This is not required to establish the connections, but it is helpful if you need to assign particular X11 display names to the various render server nodes.

The initial connection between the nodes of the two servers is made from the data server to the render server. You can reverse this such that the render server nodes connect to the corresponding nodes of the data server instead as shown in Figure 11.7.

Figure 12.7 Reversing the connection between the servers and client and connecting the render server to the data server

Typically, when the server connection is reversed, the direction of the connection between the client and the servers is also reversed (e.g., if the render server is behind a firewall). In this case, the render server must have the machine names and a connection port number to connect to the data server. The same XML file is used for this arrangement as is with the standard connection. The only difference in this case is that the render-node-port entry, if it is used, must appear in the data server’s XML element instead of the render server’s element. Example command-line arguments to initiate this type of network are given here:

paraview –m=machines.pvx

mpirun –np M pvdataserver –m=machines.pvx -rc -ch=client

mpirun –np N pvrenderserver –m=machines.pvx -rc -ch=client