NC State’s Virtual Computing Lab

August 25, 2008

An interesting project I ran across, it started in 2004.


The Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) is a remote access service that allows you to reserve a computer with a desired set of applications for yourself, and remotely access it over the Internet.

You can use all your favorite applications such as Matlab, Maple, SAS, Solidworks, and many others. Linux, Solaris and numerous Windows environments are now available to all NC State students and faculty.

Leasing custom environments to “public-ish” users via PXE or similar technology was happening in other places in 2004, but I never saw anything at this scale.

It is clear that some kind of reconfiguration/resetting happens:

What rights do I have on the VCL machine?

On custom Windows and Linux environments you have adminstrative and root level rights. Since the VCL system reloads each expired reservations with a clean environment, there is no threat of any residual data being left on a machine for the next user.

On Linux and Solaris Lab machine environments, you only have user level rights. The same premissions as you would experience at the console of a walk-in lab.

I wonder when they added the VM support mentioned at

The management nodes each control a subset of the VCL resources. These can be blades, virtual machines or lab machines. Currently, a set of individual blades or virtual machines can only be managed by a single management node. Typically there are anywhere from 80-120 physical computer nodes (blades) under one management node. Again the physical computer nodes can either be running a bare metal environment or a Virtual Machine hypervisor.

Here are deployment stats captured on Aug 25, 2008:

  • Total blades online: 438
  • Total blades offline: 87
  • Active Reservations: 49