The ShARC HPC cluster was decommissioned on the 30th of November 2023 at 17:00. It is no longer possible for users to access that cluster.

Hardware-accelerated graphics rendering (qsh-vis)

Software that requires OpenGL and a graphics card to render complex visualisations cannot be run on all of ShARC’s nodes as:

  • Only a limited number of nodes have graphics cards

  • None of the nodes that do have a monitor attached

To run such software on ShARC we therefore need:

  • A means to automate the finding of a node with a graphics card that we can use for visualisation purposes

  • A way of streaming the images rendered on a node through to the machine the user is sat in front of.

We have set up on ShARC a system for hardware-accelerated visualisation that uses two main tools: VirtualGL and TigerVNC. See below for simple usage instructions.

Usage instructions

  1. Download and install TigerVNC on your machine. TigerVNC is a program that allows you to efficiently view graphical programs on one computer that are actually running on another computer.

  2. Connect to ShARC.

  3. On the login node (not a worker node) run the command qsh-vis. The output should look something like the following:

    [te1st@sharc-login1 ~]$ qsh-vis
    NOTE: you can only run 1 GPU acclerated session
    New ' (te1st)' desktop is
    Starting applications specified in /home/te1st/.vnc/xstartup
    Log file is /home/te1st/.vnc/
    Accelerated VNC graphics session started
    *******To connect: *******
    Use the TigerVNC application to connect to:
    Make sure to enter your normal ShARC username/password when prompted.
    The latest version of the TigerVNC client can be downloaded from:
    Note that TigerVNC no longer supports http access to the java vncviewer client, however the
    java vncviewer application can be downloaded from
    Hit [enter] to terminate this VNC graphics session
  4. Leave that terminal running.

  5. On your machine start the ‘VNC Viewer’ program that comes with TigerVNC (this is called vncviewer on Linux). You should then see a dialog box like this:

  6. Enter the connection details for TigerVNC that were issued by the qsh-vis command e.g. (NB the node name and last four digits may differ when you run qsh-vis).

  7. Click Connect

  8. You should now see a desktop within a window. This desktop is running on a worker node (in the case of the presented example this is sharc-node098`; see the qsh-vis output) that is equipped with a graphics card (Optional: run nvidia-smi to see what type of graphics card). A terminal window is automatically started from which you can load modules and start applications that require hardware-accelerated graphics.

  9. When you are finished, close VNC Viewer then return to the terminal within which you started qsh-vis and press enter to stop the worker session (and allow someone else to use that graphics-card-equipped node).

Resources available to qsh-vis sessions

  • Sessions started using qsh-vis by default have allocated to them:

    • 1 CPU core

    • 1 GPU

  • You can request additional resources by passing the same parameters to qsh-vis that can be used with qrsh/qrshx/qsh/qsub (see Interactive Jobs).

  • Research groups who have purchased their own GPU visualisation nodes may have different defaults.


At present only one graphics-card-equipped node is available for use with qsh-vis so there may be contention for this resource. Some research groups have purchased their own visualisation nodes.

Technical details

Behind the scenes:

  • qsh-vis sets the default resources to be requested for the interactive session (based on whether the user belongs to a research group that has dedicated visualisation nodes)…

  • …then uses qrsh to start a script with these resources.

  • This script then starts a TigerVNC vncserver on a port that is unique over the range of machines on which hardware-accelerated visualisation sessions can be started.

  • TigerVNC supports VirtualGL, a means of streaming the images rendered by say a graphics card to a remote machine.

  • The aforementioned script then kills the created Xvnc process when Enter is pressed.