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Aalto JupyterHub for light computing and teaching

This repository contains configuration for a JupyterHub deployment using kubernetes. This deployment is very integrated into existing Aalto University systems, and thus extensive customization is probably needed.


  • We do not provide services to courses, we provide accessible computing to users, with some add-ons for courses. This means that users have full control of their data (it can benefit them beyond one course), but also more responsibility for the user. We consider this good and a gentle step to learn to be independent.

  • Courses exist as a hook which mounts course-specific shared directories. A instructor files directory is mounted for instructors. An exchange directory is mounted for both instructors and students. nbgrader provides a way for the exchange to be used to send files to and from instructors, but nbgrader is not a learning management system and is not currently integrated to Aalto LMSs. But it could be, and we are discussing this.

  • Kubernetes provides the underlying management and compute.

  • All users map to institution users: both usernames and UIDs. Institution groups are used to manage instructors for each course, the group jupyter-$coursename contains instructors for the course.

  • All data is stored on institution-provided NFS under real UIDs. This means that all users can access their data on university shell servers and via direct mount to their laptops.

  • Software provided via Docker images. For the most part all images are identical and it contains anything that anyone may need. All setup is in jupyter-aalto-singleuser.

  • nbgrader is used for assignments for students. But be aware that nbgrader is good at manipulating notebooks, it is not a learning management system, it is basically a fancy way to filter and copy files. This is facilitated via our common NFS mounts. Nbgrader does not some things expected from an LMS, such as immediate autograde and feedback.

  • Even though nbgrader is installed and the most common use, anyone may use these service for light computing for their own work.

  • A directory of YAML files is used to manage courses. JupyterHub's pre_spawn_hook is used to do all the course setup - for us, this is a very long, hackish function but does the job quite effectively and gives us a lot of flexibility.

Using this repository.

  • k8s-yaml/*.yaml is all the Kubernetes configuration. Use kubectl create -f to set up things.

  • bin/ is mostly scripts which manage kubernetes, which calls kubectl to perform some common tasks. For example, ./bin/ bounces the hub to update configuration. You often need to go beyond what the scripts provide.

  • is where all of our local magic happens.

  • There is a secrets/ repository which is not public - this has some key files for creating test users, joining ActiveDirectory for PAM authentication, and so on. It must be cloned into ./secrets/

  • scripts/ are generally scripts that are placed on the hub and not used directly.

  • course-mgmt/ are course management scripts used by admins.

  • user-scripts/ are scripts which users/instructors need to use (should be moved elsewhere).

Beyond the above, there is not really many instructions for using this. You'd kubectl create -f a bunch of stuff and then ./bin/remake-*.sh to start the hub and other processes. But there's probably a lot more magic in there.... There is also plenty of Aalto-specific configuration embedded in here. We would be happy to help factor this out.

See also

  • "Zero to JupyterHub" is another JH, but despite the name it's Kubernetes-only. It uses Helm charts to automate everything. It operates as a stand-alone service (what we do here is far more integrated to university systems).


Richard Darst email, Aalto University


Jupyterhub for teaching purposes. See triton-jupyterhub for the research one.






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