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Virtualized High Performance Computing Toolkit - A toolkit to help configure and manage virtual high performance computing (HPC) clusters by leveraging vSphere APIs
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Virtualized High Performance Computing Toolkit (vHPC Toolkit)

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High Performance Computing (HPC) is the use of parallel-processing techniques to solve complex computational problems. HPC systems have the ability to deliver sustained performance through the concurrent use of distributed computing resources, and they are typically used for solving advanced scientific and engineering problems, such as computational fluid dynamics, bioinformatics, molecular dynamics, weather modeling and deep learning with neural networks.

Due to their extreme demand on performance, HPC workloads often have much more intensive resource requirements than those workloads found in the typical enterprise. For example, HPC commonly leverages hardware accelerators, such as GPU and FPGA for compute as well as RDMA interconnects, which require special vSphere configurations.

This toolkit is intended to facilitate managing the lifecycle of these special configurations by leveraging vSphere APIs. It also includes features that help vSphere administrators perform some common vSphere tasks that are related to creating such high-performing environments, such as VM cloning, setting Latency Sensitivity, and sizing vCPUs, memory, etc.

Feature Highlights:

  • Configure PCIe devices in DirectPath I/O mode, such as GPGPU, FPGA and RDMA interconnects
  • Configure NVIDIA vGPU
  • Configure RDMA SR-IOV (Single Root I/O Virtualization)
  • Configure PVRDMA (Paravirtualized RDMA)
  • Easy creation and destruction of virtual HPC clusters using cluster configuration files
  • Perform common vSphere tasks, such as cloning VMs, configuring vCPUs, memory, reservations, shares, Latency Sensitivity, Distributed Virtual Switch/Standard Virtual Switch, network adapters and network configurations

Try It Out


OS for using this toolkit: Linux or Mac
vSphere >=6.5
Python >=3

Install and setup

Package dependencies will be isolated in a Python virtual environment by virtualenv. This allows us to have different versions of dependencies.

To install virtualenv if you don't have one, for example,

  • For Mac: pip install --upgrade virtualenv
  • For Ubuntu: sudo apt-get install python3-pip; sudo pip3 install virtualenv

Setup this toolkit with an virtual env:

git clone
cd vhpc_toolkit
virtualenv -p python3 venv
source venv/bin/activate
pip install -r requirements.txt
python install

Fill in the vCenter.conf file from vhpc_toolkit/config with your vCenter server name and username. The file should look like:

# vCenter configuration 
server: vcenter-fqdn-or-ip   
port: 443
username: administrator@vsphere.local  

After properly setting the config file, you should be able to execute ./vhpc_toolkit under bin folder to enter interactive shell and perform all available operations, e.g.:

vCenter password: (enter your vCenter passoword)
Welcome to the vHPC Toolkit Shell. Type help or ? to list commands. Type exit to exit the shell.

vhpc_toolkit> help

Documented commands (type help <topic>):
clone    cpumem   dvs   help     network      passthru  power   sriov  vgpu
cluster  destroy  exit  latency  network_cfg  post      pvrdma  svs    view



The functions of the available vhpc_toolkit major commands are:

    clone               Clone VM(s) via Full Clone or Linked Clone
    cluster             Create/Destroy vHPC cluster based on cluster configuration file
    cpumem              Reconfigure CPU/memory for VM(s)
    destroy             Destroy VM(s)
    dvs                 Create/destroy a distributed virtual switch
    exit                Exit the interactive shell 
    help                Show overview help information 
    latency             Configure/Check latency sensitivity
    network             Add/Remove network adapter(s) for VM(s)
    network_config      Configure network(s) for VM(s)
    passthru            Add/Remove (large) PCI device(s) in Passthrough mode
    post                Execute post script(s) in guest OS
    power               Power on/off VM(s)
    pvrdma              Add/Remove PVRDMA (paravirtual RDMA) device(s)
    sriov               Add/remove single root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV)
    svs                 Create/destroy a standard virtual switch
    vgpu                Add/Remove vGPU device in SharedPassthru mode
    view                View the vCenter object names

Command syntax

Each command has help information (-h or --help), for example,

vhpc_toolkit> help passthru
usage: vhpc_toolkit passthru [-h] (--vm VM | --file FILE) [--query]
                             [--remove | --add] [--device DEVICE [DEVICE ...]]
                             [--mmio_size MMIO_SIZE]

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --vm VM               Name of the VM on which to perform the passthrough operation
  --file FILE           Name of the file containing a list of VMs, one per line, to perform the passthrough operation
  --query               Print available passthrough device(s) information for the VM(s)
  --remove              Remove device(s)
  --add                 Add device(s)
  --device DEVICE [DEVICE ...]
                        Device ID of the PCI device(s), for example: 0000:05:00.0
  --mmio_size MMIO_SIZE
                        64-bit MMIO size in GB for PCI device with large BARs. Default: 256

The following conventions are used when describing command syntax:

vhpc_toolkit> {command} (--cmd1 cmd1_arg | --cmd2 cmd2_arg) [--cmd3 cmd3_arg [cmd3_arg ...]]
  • {} means this is a major command and will be followed by a list of sub-commands.

  • () means this is a mandatory subcommand.

  • [] means this is an optional subcommand.

  • {command} could be any command listed in the overview help above.

  • (--cmd1 cmd1_arg | --cmd2 cmd2_arg) means one of these two must be specified.

  • [--cmd3 cmd3_arg [cmd3_arg ...]] means this is an optional command and you can optionally append multiple arguments to this command.

Per-VM operations

Please see operation examples for what you can do with each operation.

Cluster-level operations

The most common usage of this tool is to help administrators create and manage virtual HPC clusters on vSphere. This section provides details for the cluster-level operations. Available cluster sub-commands are:

vhpc_toolkit> cluster -h
usage: vhpc_toolkit cluster [-h] (--create | --destroy) --file FILE

optional arguments:
  -h, --help   show this help message and exit
  --create     Create a cluster
  --destroy    Destroy a cluster
  --file FILE  Name of the cluster configuration file

Create cluster

vhpc_toolkit> cluster --create --file cluster.conf

This will connect to the vCenter server and create a cluster using the cluster definition given in the cluster configuration file, whose format is described in the Cluster configuration file section. Once the cluster has been created successfully, IP addresses of VMs will be displayed (if power on is successful and VM guest agent is working properly after powering on)

Destroy cluster

vhpc_toolkit> cluster --destroy --file cluster.conf

This will destroy the cluster defined in the cluster.conf file, if the cluster exists. Before destroying, you will be prompted to confirm the destroy operation.

Cluster configuration file

The cluster configuration file is the key to defining your HPC virtual cluster. It's composed of multiple sections, each of which consists a set of properties, that are represented as key-value pairs. You can define section names arbitrarily, but the key names are not arbitrary. For a list of valid key names, please see available keys.

See the examples/cluster-scripts directory for different examples.

In the following example, a section called BASE has been defined (section names should be bracketed). In this section, we can define clone properties as:

template: vhpc_clone
cpu: 4
memory: 16
datacenter: HPC Datacenter
cluster: COMPUTE GPU Cluster
datastore: COMPUTE01_vsanDatastore
linked: no

We define another section called NETWORK, which contains some networking properties:

is_dhcp: true
port_group: vHPC-PG-VMNetwork
dns: ['', '']

We can also define another section to assign NVIDIA V100 vGPU with grid_p100-2q profile, where the profile represents vGPU type and “2q” refers to the vGPU's memory size.

vgpu: grid_p100-2q

The VM definition section should have the section name _VMS_. Each line defines a VM name and some property definitions. You can define VM name arbitrarily, but the VM's definition must be a combination of previously-defined section names and explicit key-value pairs (available keys). Each section name will be replaced inline with the set of key-value pairs listed in section’s definition. Once the VM definition has been resolved to a list of key-value pairs, the pairs are processed from left to right with the rightmost occurrence of a key taking precedence over any earlier occurrence. Multiple VM property definitions are delimited by whitespace, e.g.:

new_vm1:  BASE NETWORK P100-VGPU
new_vm2:  BASE NETWORK P100-VGPU
new_vm3:  BASE NETWORK

In the above example, it defines three VMs: new_vm1, new_vm2 and new_vm3. All VMs will inherit the properties defined in the BASE, NETWORK sections. VMs new_vm1, new_vm2 will inherit properties defined in the P100-VGPU section, additionally.

To inherit most of the properties in a section for a VM but override one or two particular properties, you can append the properties after the section inheritance:

new_vm1:  BASE NETWORK P100-VGPU
new_vm2:  BASE NETWORK P100-VGPU
new_vm3:  BASE NETWORK host:

In the VM section, certain key values can be defined in ranges, e.g.:

new_vm{4:7}: BASE NETWORK host: vhpc-esx-0{2:3}

The above example defines four VMs on two hosts. The rules for this range definition are:

  1. The size of the range of the left-hand side (the number of VMs) must be greater than or equal to each of the ranges of the righ-thand side.

  2. Currently, only the host, datastore, ip, and guest_hostname key values along with the VM name can include range specifiers.

  3. Ranges on the property side that are smaller than the VM name range will be padded to the proper length using one of two strategies: round-robin or consecutive.

In the round-robin case, the ranges will be expanded as shown below. Note that the host range 2-3 has been expanded by repeating the range to match the number of VMs: 2,3,2,3.

VM host

The expansion in the consecutive case is shown below. Note that the host range 2-3 has been expanded by repeating each element consecutively: 2, 2, 3, 3.

VM host

The syntax for defining round-robin ranges is {x:y} and the syntax for defining consecutive ranges is {{x:y}}, where x is the beginning of the range and y is the end of the range.

When you perform a cluster-level operation that includes ranges, the ranges will be expanded and you will be prompted to confirm the action.

Additionally, you can also define operations to create/destroy Standard Virtual Switch (SVS) and Distributed Virtual Switch (DVS) in the cluster configuration file. The section should have the section name _SVS_ or _DVS_, e.g.:

Create a DVS named pvrdma-dvs with pnic vmnic5 from the hosts defined in the following HOST-LIST section and also create a port group pvrdma-pg within this DVS:

host: vhpc-esx-0{{5:8}}
pvrdma-dvs: pnic: vmnic5 HOST-LIST port_group: pvrdma-pg

Or create a SVS named sriov-svs with pnic vmnic4 on each host in HOST-LIST and also create a port group sriov-pg within each SVS:

sriov-svs: pnic: vmnic4 HOST-LIST port_group: sriov-pg

Prepare the VM template

For cloning operation and cluster creation operation, a VM template is required. Use the standard procedure for creating vSphere templates, include installing Guest Agents, modifying network scripts to remove hardware rules and UUID. A good example: Creating a CentOS 7.2 VMware Gold Template

If you intend to configure large-BAR PCIe devices (such as NVIDIA P100, V100 GPU accelerators) or to execute post scripts, there are two additional requirements:

  1. To use VM Direct Path I/O (Passthrough), your VM must be configured to boot with EFI and your guest OS must have been created with an EFI installation of that operating system. More details: VMware KB article 2142307

  2. Linux guests are the only supported guest operating systems for executing post scripts.

Additional functions

Please share your ideas


The vhpc-toolkit project team welcomes contributions from the community. If you wish to contribute code and you have not signed our contributor license agreement (CLA), our bot will update the issue when you open a Pull Request. For any questions about the CLA process, please refer to our FAQ.


This toolkit is available under the Apache 2 license.

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