Supported Linux System Types

What type of Linux systems does the Computer Center offer?

The Computing and Networking Infrastructure (CNI) group offers two types of Linux installations for you to choose from, all of which are built around the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) product. 

Level 1 Linux systems are entirely managed by the CNI group, and are ideal for users who don't want to be bothered by common administrative hassles of fixing system problems, installing new software and keeping up with frequent security patches.  These machines are managed directly by the CNI group and offer the highest level of integration with the Common User Environment (CUE) machines like jlabl1, jlabs1 and the farm/ifarm machines.

Level 2 Linux machines, on the other hand, are designed for users who need to be root (superuser) on their own machines.  The administrator of a Level 2 machine can choose their own root password (RHEL6) or are granted sudo access (RHEL7), which means that they will be the primary administrator of the machine, with the freedom to reconfigure settings, manage storage and install programs as they see fit.  The CNI group staff may assist them with specific tasks from time to time, but the responsibility for daily administration of the machine lies with the administrator, not the CNI group.  Level 2 machines will automatically be included in the patch management system maintained by the CNI group, however, so at least Level 2 administrators will be relieved of this burden. 

What are the differences between these systems?

Level Pros Cons
Level 1
  • Easy access to the same /home, /group, /site, /scratch and /apps directories
  • You share the same account across all CUE and scientific computing machines
  • Offload all the time-consuming system administration tasks to the CNI group
  • The computer is pre-configured for the best possible integration with the rest of the CUE and scientific computing machines
  • Basic services like printing, DNS and NTP come pre-configured
  • You will not be able to install your own software on the system, add users or manage other system settings without first contacting the CNI group
  • Current build only supports desktops
  • Subject to quota limits on /home, however the environment is such that this would be a problem only in special situations.
Level 2
  • You will have the root password/sudo access depending on the version installed
  • You can install software and manage other system settings without the assistance of the CNI group
  • Access to /site, /apps and /scratch directories.
  • The CNI group handles security patches, saving you time
  • Basic services like printing, DNS and NTP come pre-configured
  • This configuration offers a good balance between local administrative privileges and integration with the rest of the CUE and scientific computing machines
  • You will not have access to the /group directory, although specific group areas can be made available to you by request and approval of the owner of the specific area.
  • Your /home directory will be local to the individual machine, and not shared with the rest of the CUE or scientific computing machines and will not have the benefit of being backed up.
  • Current build only supports desktops
  • User will be held responsible for machine security


Which type of system should I choose?

For most users, we recommend a Level 1 system.  These systems are fully integrated into the CUE and scientific computing environment, so you can expect things to work on your desktop system the same way they will on the central machines.  Your home directory is shared so all your files will be available to you in both places, and any code you write and test on your desktop will be compatible with the ifarml* machines and the batch farm.  This is the best solution for most users, especially physicists and students who just want to concentrate on science.

If you are comfortable with Linux system administration and are willing to spend the extra time required to manage your own machine, the Level 2 system can be a viable choice.  In return for the extra administration effort, you'll have the ability to manage the system in almost any way you choose.  If your work requires you to install specialized software or interface with non-standard devices.

What if I have a Laptop?

Laptop users cannot use Level 1 or Level 2 Linux configurations unless the computer is plugged in all the time and used as a desktop.  Laptops are mobile, and move from network to network while at the Lab, and are often taken offsite and used when not connected to the Lab's network.  Level 1 and Level 2 systems require certain JLab network services to be available in order to run, and if they are used outside the JLab network, they will either not work at all, run slowly, or fail in other ways.


What if I have Windows installed already?


Installing Linux on your PC will erase Windows, along with all other files on the PC.  Before installing Linux, be absolutely certain that you don't need Windows on that PC anymore.  The CNI group no longer allows dual-booting of Windows & Linux on the same computer.