An alternative view of cats and
Campfire Cats, B. Kliban (1935-1990)
©Judith K. Kliban
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Tips and Tricks for CATS Users

Table of Contents
Logging In
Storing and Accessing Files
Compiling and Linking Codes
      -  Using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 IDE
      -  Linking the MS-MPI Library
      -  Linking Intel's Math Kernel Library
Testing and Debugging Codes
Using the HPC Job Manager
      -  Running Parallel Jobs
      -  Running ANSYS FLUENT
      -  Running MATLAB in Batch
Finding Software
Connecting to Linux Systems

The CATS compute nodes were decommissioned on 6/24/2013. Login nodes and storage were decommissioned on 8/24/2016.

CATS is the Combustion And Turbulence Simulator - an HPC cluster of 36 Dell servers, each featuring dual, dual-core 3GHz Intel Xeon 5160 "Woodcrest" processors with 8 GB RAM, tied together using a QLogic 4X SDR InfiniBand interconnect. CATS also includes a pair of interactive login nodes called catslogin and catslogin2, each holding 3 terabytes of file storage, with the same Woodcrest processors and 16 GB RAM. These two machines are connected to the head node (cats001) and the 35 compute nodes (cats002-cats036) via a switched gigabit Ethernet fabric. Each compute node has 45 GB of local scratch space. The system configuration page for CATS provides further details on this resource.

For its operating system, CATS currently runs Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 (SP1) HPC Edition on the compute nodes, and Windows Server 2008 R2 (SP1) Enterprise on catslogin and catslogin2. The head node, cats001, runs the job scheduler, which is responsible for initiating and controlling the parallel batch jobs that may be spread across the 140 cores of the other 35 compute nodes. The cluster and its Windows-based software environment were featured in a 2009 Microsoft Case Study.

CATS is reserved for the exclusive use of the Turbulence and Combustion Group in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. It is operated and maintained for that group by the Cornell Center for Advanced Computing. The Principal Investigator for CATS is Prof. Stephen B. Pope; the co-PI is Dr. Steven R. Lantz. Funding for CATS was provided through an AFOSR DURIP grant, agreement number FA9550-07-1-0288.

Logging In

Connect to catslogin or catslogin2 using Remote Desktop Connection, which is preinstalled as an accessory in all current versions of Windows. Version 2.1.1 of a nice client for Mac can be downloaded; it is not supported for OS X 10.7 "Lion" or higher, but you may find that it works anyway. For Linux, the appropriate client is called rdesktop. It can be accessed using the tsclient graphical front end. (If you use tsclient, make sure you specify the "RDPv5" protocol.)

You should log in using your CAC userid. Please make sure the domain is CTC_ITH. Equivalently, you can enter your userid as CTC_ITH\myid or

There is a bug in rdesktop that may cause the mouse pointer/cursor to have an incorrect appearance when the remote host runs Windows Server 2008 R2. If you experience this problem, please check here for possible solutions.

In an RDP session, users are no longer allowed to reset the DPI to make characters larger. The relevant selections in the Display control panel are grayed out in Windows Server 2008 R2. If you find the default character size to be unacceptably small, your only recourse is to reset the values of certain registry keys. From this site you can download .reg files that will accomplish this for you.

Storing and Accessing Files

User storage on catslogin and catslogin2 is on the local T: drive. You can think of "T" as standing for "Terabyte", because it corresponds to each node's local 1 TB RAID-5 disk array. Files should be stored in one of two folders on the T: drive. Long-term files belong in T:\Users\myid, while temporary files go in T:\Work\myid. (Please do not store files on the CAC's general-purpose file server, \\, even though you may have a folder called "myid" defined there--mapped to letter drive H:--as well.)

A more recent addition to each machine is X:, which is a single 2 TB non-RAID disk providing bulk storage for less critical data. Access speed is relatively slow and the reliability is not as good as RAID, so actively running jobs should not do I/O to this disk. You can create a personal folder X:\Xtra\myid on either machine, if you desire such storage.

To access your files remotely in Windows (e.g., from your laptop), you can navigate to a network share in the usual way. For example, you can enter \\\Users\myid in an address bar; or you can map a network drive under Tools in any folder window, or via "net use" at the command prompt. The following network shares are defined:


Previously, you would always keep your most important files in T:\Users\myid on one or both login nodes, because that folder was backed up regularly by CIT's EZ-Backup service. However, that service was discontinued for CATS users on 3/18/13. Given that the CIT service was costly for large files, it was previously recommended to store less important data files (e.g., ones that can be recreated) in T:\Users\myid\scratch, which is not backed up, or in T:\Work\myid, on one or both login nodes.

Today the best way to create a backup is to mirror your files between the two login nodes. A couple of utilities can be helpful for comparing or synchronizing files between the two machine. The first is WinDiff, located in C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.0\Bin\x64. The other is robocopy, available at the command prompt. Here is a sample robocopy command that can be used to sync files if you are on (e.g.) catslogin2:

robocopy "\\catslogin\Users\user_name" T:\Users\user_name /R:1 /W:5
    /E /COPY:DAT /DCOPY:T /TS /FP /TEE /LOG+:user_name_copy_catslogin.txt

Network shares can easily be accessed from other platforms. From Macs, make them available in the Finder by choosing "Go > Connect to Server...", then entering (e.g.) "smb://". From Unix or Linux, use smbclient.

To make file sharing work from off campus, you will need to have a VPN client running and connected to Cornell's VPN server. You can download the Cisco VPN client (for Windows or Mac) by going to and searching for "vpn client". (CIT does not support VPN for Linux but suggests VPNC.) The reason for the Virtual Private Network is security. To deter hacking, most CAC-supported machines only allow such connections from inside the (real or virtual) domain.

Finally, every compute node contains a local (non-networked) 45 GB partition that can be used for scratch space during computations. The drive letter is D:. If you want to use any local D: space, please create a top-level folder named with your userid as part of your batch script.

Compiling and Linking Codes

Catslogin provides the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 integrated development environment (IDE) into which the following compilers are integrated: Microsoft Visual C/C++ 2008, Intel C/C++ 11.1, and Intel Visual Fortran 11.1, among others. If desired, any one of these compilers can be invoked from the command line in a Windows command shell (cmd) as well. However, the Visual Studio environment is preferred because it doubles as a debugger.

Using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 IDE

In Visual Studio, you begin by creating a solution that builds one or more projects. Roughly speaking, the projects within a solution are equivalent to the targets of a Linux makefile. Each separate project corresponds to one executable or one library that is to be built.

To start a new project that (e.g.) builds an executable, given one or more files of Fortran code, first select "File | New | Project...", then "Intel Fortran | Console Application", then "Empty Project". Next, add files containing source code to the project using "Project | Add New [or Existing] Item...".

Compilation is controlled through the Properties dialog, in the Project menu. This dialog is nothing more than a GUI for setting the command-line compiler flags. You can define multiple configurations for each project. The active configuration determines the actual set of flags that is passed to the compiler when the project is built. By default, there are two configurations named Debug and Release that are predefined for the Win32 platform, and Debug is the active configuration.

The problem is we don't generally want to use the Win32 platform; we want the x64 platform. Strangely, this choice does not appear anywhere in the Properties dialog until you click the Configuration Manager button (which is also available from "Build | Configuration Manager"). Under "Active solution platform", choose "New...", then "x64", then "OK" the changes you have made.

(Note: Unexpected problems with the Visual Studio interface can sometimes be cleared by starting it up with "devenv /resetsettings".)

Linking the MS-MPI Library

For MPI codes, a few more steps are necessary in Properties. Set the Configuration to All Configurations and add the following items. Note, the locations have changed slightly for HPC Pack 2008 R2, as compared to previous releases:

For x64 platform -

    C/C++/Fortran | General | Additional Include Directories:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2\Inc
    Linker | General | Additional Library Directories:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2\Lib\amd64
    Linker | Input | Additional Dependencies:
msmpi.lib msmpifec.lib

For Fortran codes, in addition to msmpi.lib, one of the msmpif*c.lib static libraries is required, as indicated above:

For Fortran 90/95 projects, it's likely you will want to add the source file for the MPI module, which is:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2\Inc\mpi.f90.

The Intel EM64T processors on CATS can run either 64- or 32-bit applications, so it is possible to compile and link MPI codes for the Win32 platform, as well as x64, if desired. To build for Win32, only one minor change must be made to the above Properties:

For Win32 platform -

    Linker | General | Additional Library Directories:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2\Lib\i386

Linking Intel's Math Kernel Library (and other libs)

Similar steps to the above are involved for linking libraries other than MPI. For example, should one wish to link any of the LAPACK or BLAS routines in Intel's MKL 11 (with a choice of static linking, rather than dll's), here are the additions to make in the Visual Studio dialogs and tabs:

For x64 platform, multithreaded -

    C/C++ | General | Additional Include Directories (optional for Fortran):
C:\Program Files (x86)\Intel\Compiler\11.1\051\mkl\include
    Linker | General | Additional Library Directories:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Intel\Compiler\11.1\051\mkl\em64t\lib
    Linker | Input | Additional Dependencies:
mkl_intel_lp64.lib mkl_intel_thread.lib mkl_core.lib libiomp5mt.lib
For x64 platform, sequential -  [use the above settings, except:]

    Linker | Input | Additional Dependencies:
mkl_intel_lp64.lib mkl_sequential.lib mkl_core.lib

Linking to MKL has become rather complicated due to Intel's decision to maximize MKL's flexibility and multi-platform compatibility by splitting off multithreading into four separate layers of libraries. The four libraries listed above correspond to the four essential layers: interface layer, threading layer, computational layer, and runtime (OpenMP) layer. For more help, including examples of using both static and dynamic linking in various ways, refer to the Intel MKL User Guide, C:\Program Files (x86)\Intel\Compiler\11.1\051\Documentation\en_US\mkl\userguide.pdf, Chapter 5. Even better is the Intel Link Line Advisor (note, the MKL version on CATS is 10.2).

Want to know what's in a given library? Open up Intel's "Fortran Build Environment" command window (in the Start menu), move to the folder with the lib in question, and type:

dumpbin /linkermember:2 libname.lib

Testing and Debugging Codes

For the most part, all testing and debugging should be done on a login node. (This is contrary to the normal policy on other CAC clusters, but catslogin and catslogin2 are dedicated for the use of the Turbulence and Combustion Group, which sets CATS policies in accordance with its own needs.) Please be mindful that these are shared, interactive machines, so running tests on more than 2 cores is generally not a good idea.

Serial debugging is done entirely within Visual Studio, using the Debug menu. Parallel debugging can also be done with Visual Studio, but it's more involved. Sometimes inserting print statements is just as effective.

Here's a useful little article from Intel: "Tips for Debugging Run-time Failures in Applications Built with the Intel(R) Fortran Compiler". It presents compiler options that give good diagnostic information with low impact on performance.

Using the HPC Job Manager

Job submission, monitoring, and control is done through the Job Manager. You can access it from Start | All Programs | Microsoft HPC Pack | HPC Job Manager. The CATS cluster is identified through the name of its head node, cats001. When the Job Manager is initially run, this head node must be identified in order to establish contact with the scheduler running there. Then you may submit jobs using the Actions | Job Submission menu. Choose "New Job" to get started.

As shown in this figure, the scheduler maintains a master list of all the compute nodes in the cluster, tabulating each node's current status and the IP addresses at which to contact it. One address is the Application IP (previously MPI IP): this is associated with the InfiniBand interface to the cluster's internal high-performance LAN, which is used mainly for MPI messaging. The other address is the Private IP: this is associated with the Gigabit Ethernet interface that connects the node to catslogin and catslogin2, as well as to most other Cornell subnets (but not to the broad Internet).

According to this reference, you can get a list of all the nodes in the cluster and their current state by typing:

node list /scheduler:cats001

Here is a list of guidelines to follow when you use "New Job" to create a new batch job:

Instead of the above, let's say you check "Run job until canceled", set the task property "Rerunnable" to True, and leave the "Run time" for the task open. This combination instructs the scheduler to wait infinitely long for you to re-run (i.e., manually restart) your failed tasks, until you explicitly cancel the job. It's unlikely this behavior is what you really want. The above settings are meant to help you avoid tying up CATS resources needlessly.

After entering your job's specifications, you can click "Save Job XML File..." to preserve these settings for future submissions. This is where the button to "Create New Job from XML File..." comes in. One word of caution: if you use the button to access a saved job file, but change the number of cores, the scheduler that may not honor the new number (as experience has shown)! Therefore, the best practice is to save a different file for every core count you intend to use.

Running Parallel Jobs

To start some number of parallel processes on the nodes assigned to you by the Job Manager, your batch job (or a script that it invokes) should contain one or more "mpiexec" commands. Two of mpiexec's most important flags are -n for how many processes to start overall, and -cores for how many processes to start on each node. Since the CATS compute nodes possess 4 physical cores apiece, "-cores 4" (the default) is often appropriate. But sometimes a different number is needed. For example, if some file or set of files is to be copied to each node, then "-cores 1" is appropriate.

Processes are assigned to nodes by initiating the first 4 (or the -cores limit, if present) on the first machine, the next 4 on the second machine, and so on. If processes still remain to be assigned when the end of the machines list is reached, the above sequence is repeated from the beginning of the list.

The above -n and -cores flags are optional when you enter your mpiexec and other job commands into the GUI of the HPC Job Manager.

For further examples, refer to the Job Manager help, or just try some simple tests. Here is a little .bat script that may help you sort out how processes map to nodes:

@echo off
REM rollcall.bat - to find out which ranks are on what nodes
for /f %%i in ('hostname') do set myhostname=%%i
echo Rank %PMI_RANK% is on %myhostname%
@echo on

Note, PMI_RANK is a useful environment variable defined in the environment of any parallel command launched by mpiexec. It is equal to the numerical rank of the process, an integer from 0 to N-1 inclusive, if N processes were started. It provides a way to assign ranks to processes that are not MPI tasks but rather parallel instances of some general Windows command.


FLUENT versions 14.0, 13.0, and 12.1 can initiate jobs on the HPC Job Manager directly from the FLUENT GUI. The easiest way to do this is via the FLUENT Launcher that appears on application startup. Below are the settings you would use to start parallel workers on the CATS compute nodes that can be controlled by your GUI interactively from a login node.

When FLUENT starts, you will see exactly which CATS nodes are running the worker processes. In v.13.0, the console will also falsely report that the system interconnect is ethernet, but ignore this. It's really using the default InfiniBand (as reported correctly in v.14.0).

You can confirm the interconnect type by running the commands "/parallel latency" and "/parallel bandwidth" in the console (available via the Parallel > Network menu as well). The results should be uniformly around 8 microseconds and 900 MB/s, respectively. These results are consistent only with IB (note, SDR - as of Aug. 2012, the switch is QDR, but the HCAs are still SDR).

Explanation: It seems that FLUENT 13.0 ignores (!) the interconnect setting you give it in the Launcher, which ultimately ends up as the -pic setting on the command line. Instead, it obeys the setting of the environment variable CCP_MPI_NETMASK which is pre-set across the cluster. On CATS, this variable is set to specify the InfiniBand subnet, not the Ethernet.

Running MATLAB in Batch

If your MATLAB script is too computationally intensive to run on the login nodes, you can run it on the compute nodes instead. First you must compile your m-file to convert it into a standalone executable. The MATLAB facility for doing such compilations is called mcc. From the MATLAB command line, simply enter the following:

mcc -m myscript.m

It's best to copy the script into its own, empty folder first. The mcc command will convert your script into C code and compile it into myscript.exe, a Windows executable that can be run independently of the MATLAB interface. As explained in the readme.txt file that is also generated, your exe must have access to certain runtime libraries. These dll's are preinstalled on the compute nodes, and their location is already inserted in your default path. Therefore, to run the exe on the compute nodes, all you need to do is submit a batch job that calls your exe. (Most likely you will want the working directory to be the folder in which the exe was created.)

Haifeng has written a nice tutorial demonstrating how to run multiple copies of your compiled MATLAB code simultaneously in parallel on the compute nodes. You can download a zip file containing a sample batch script, test code, and complete instructions. (Note that in the sample job.xml file, it is not really necessary to preface each task's Command Line with "mpiexec -l"; this just adds "[0]" to the beginning of each line of output. It is sufficient just to give the name of the exe.)

Here a few tips to know when creating a MATLAB code that is suitable for mcc:

Finding Software

Here is the list of software currently installed on catslogin and catslogin2.
Items marked with a star (and in parentheses) are installed on (just) the CATS compute nodes.
Items with two stars are installed only on catslogin2.

ActiveState ActivePerl 5.10.1 (5.12.2*)
(ActiveState ActivePython*,*)
Adobe Flash Player
Adobe Acrobat Reader DC 15.017.20050
ANSYS 14.0
CHEMKIN-PRO 15131, 15101, and 15092, x64
CollabNet Subversion Client 1.6.9
EnSightCFD3 - in Start | CEI
EPD, Enthought Python Distribution 6.1-1**
    -- Python 2.6, SciPy, PyLab, IDLE, etc.
FileZilla 3.3.3
FLUENT from ANSYS, 14.0
Ghostscript 8.64
Google Toolbar for IE, 7.4
Graphviz 1.16, companion to CHEMKIN-PRO
GSview 4.9
Identity Finder
Intel C/C++ Compiler 11.1.051
Intel Debugger 11.1
Intel Visual Fortran Compiler 11.1.051
Intel MKL 10.2 for the Intel 11.1 compilers
Java JRE/JDK 8 Update 91, 32-bit
MagicDisc 2.7
MathType 6
Matlab R2012a
Matlab Compiler Runtime 7.17*/7.14* for R2012a/R2010b
Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2*
Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2 SDK
Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007
    -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Groove
Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Microsoft Visual C/C++ Compiler 2008
Microsoft Visual Studio 2008
MiKTeX 2.9 (includes pdfTeX)
Notepad++ 5.9
ParaView 3.98.1, 64-bit
PDFCreator 1.2
PuTTY 0.60
RealVNC Viewer 4.1.3
Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.1
TortoiseHg 2.0.4, 64-bit
TortoiseSVN 1.6.15, 32- and 64-bit
VisIt 2.6.2, 64-bit**
Windows PowerShell 1.0
WinEdt 6.0
WinSCP 4.2.8
Xming + fonts, tools, clients
    installation notes
In the future...?
CutePDF Writer, a PDFCreator alternative
GNU Emacs

Connecting to Linux Systems

PuTTY is provided as a free, secure ssh client for connecting to Linux or Unix systems. To enable graphical display from these remote systems, PuTTY must be coupled with an X window server. Xming (also free and open-source) is provided for this purpose. Here is the sequence for starting an ssh session with X11 forwarding enabled:

After logging out from PuTTY, you can choose to quit Xming by right-clicking its icon in the System Tray and selecting "Exit".

CATS photo what you say!!

Last updated on 7/13/16 by Steve Lantz (slantz ~at~