Dask cluster

Notes about running a small Dask cluster with Distributed workers in your CoCalc project for prototyping and educational use.

Start cluster

  1. Create a Linux Terminal, e.g. dask.term

  2. Use the split buttons at the top right to split it horizontally and vertically into 4 panels (see Frame Editor for more details).

  3. Start the Scheduler in the first terminal panel:

    dask-scheduler --dashboard-prefix $COCALC_PROJECT_ID/port/8787

    The configuration for the dashboard is necessary to make it work at that URL:

    https://cocalc.com/<PROJECT UUID>/port/8787/status
  1. Start three works in the other 3 panels via:

    dask-worker tcp://localhost:8786 \
        --dashboard-prefix $COCALC_PROJECT_ID/port/8787 \
        --local-directory ~/dask-worker \
        --nthreads 1 --nprocs 1 --memory-limit 256M
    • connecting to localhost (not the IP address, which is changing between project restarts!)

    • set the local directory to ~/dask-worker in your home directory (all their data will be there, when shutting down the cluster, you can get rid of all temp data at once by removing that directory)

    • threads: just one

    • processes: also just one

    • and a conservative memory limit per worker.


    If you run into memory-limit issues for individual workers, switch to running two clients with 512M memory limit. You can also get memory upgrades to be able to allocate more. In case you only run two workers, you can start htop in the 4th panel in order to keep an eye on all running processes in your project.


Tipp: in each panel of the terminal, there is an icon with a “rocket”. Click it to open up a startup initialization script of that very panel. Paste these commands right there, and the next time you start your project and open up that terminal (just keep that tab opened), all init commands for each panel will run. That way, your little cluster is always spun up when you work in your project. If there is an issue, run Ctrl-c and then Ctrl-d to interrupt and exit the running instance. It will respan and run that init command again…

Connect with a client

  1. Create a Jupyter Notebook, e.g. dask.ipynb.

  2. Configure Dask to set the temporary directory to be in your project’s files (the /tmp directory is virtual and in memory). The config below also enables work stealing, because we’re on the same node anyways. The snippet below should get you started:

    import dask
    import dask.distributed
    import os
        'temporary_directory': os.path.expanduser('~/tmp'),
        'scheduler.work-stealing': True
  1. Create you client, it should return a general status information (how many clients, memory, etc.):

    from dask.distributed import Client
    client = Client('')
    dask example

If that worked, congratulations! You can start submitting tasks to your little cluster!

From here, you can also check the actual configuration:


First example

To get started with a small example, let’s compute the sum of the first 1000 integers using Bags:

import dask.bag as db
nums = db.from_sequence(range(1000), npartitions=10)

It should return:



Once your cluster is running and the scheduler’s prefix is setup correctly (see above), open the dashboard’s URL in a new browser tab. Make sure to replace the placeholder with your project’s UUID:

https://cocalc.com/<PROJECT UUID>/port/8787/status

For example:


Multi-project/-node cluster

This setup runs several workers inside the same project. This allows to scale up with the number of available cores and memory, but no further. Right now, it is not possible to define a cluster made of several projects on CoCalc.