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This tutorial explains how to configure your cluster computers to easily start a set of Erlang nodes on every machine through SSH. It shows how to use the slave module to start Erlang nodes that are linked to a main controler.

Configuring SSH servers

SSH server is generally properly installed and configured by Linux distributions, if you ask for SSH server installation. The SSH server is sometime called sshd, standing for SSH deamon.

You need to have SSH servers running on all your cluster nodes.

Configuring your SSH client: connection without password

SSH client RSA key authentification

To be able to manage your cluster as a whole, you need to set up your SSH access to the cluster nodes so that you can log into them without being prompt for a password or passphrase. Here are the needed steps to configure your SSH client and server to use RSA key for authentification. You only need to do this procedure once, for each client/server.

  1. Generate an SSH RSA key, if you do not already have one:
    ssh-keygen -t rsa
  2. Copy the id_rsa.pub file to the target machine:
    scp .ssh/id_rsa.pub userid@ssh2-server:id_rsa.pub
  3. Connect through SSH on the server:
    ssh userid@ssh2-server
  4. Create a .ssh directory in the user home directory (if necessary):
    mkdir .ssh
  5. Copy the contents of the id_rsa.pub file to the authorization file for protocol 2 connections:
    cat id_rsa.pub >>$HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys
  6. Remove the id_rsa.pub file:
    rm $HOME/id_rsa.pub

    Alternatively, you can use the command ssh-copy-id ssh2-server, if it is available on your computer, to replace step 2 to 6. ssh-copy-id is for example available on Linux Mandrake and Debian distributions.

Adding your identity to the SSH-agent software

After the previous step, you will be prompted for the passphrase of your RSA key each time you are initialising a connection. To avoid typing the passphrase many time, you can add your identity to a program called ssh-agent that will keep your passphrase for the work session duration. Use of the SSH protocol will thus be simplified:

  1. Ensure a program called ssh-agent is running. Type:
    ps aux | grep ssh-agent

    to check if ssh-agent is running under your userid. Type:


    to check that ssh-agent is linked to your current window manager session or shell process.

  2. If ssh-agent is not started, you can create an ssh-agent session in the shell with, for example, the screen program:
    ssh-agent screen

    After this command, SSH actions typed into the screen console will be handle through the ssh-agent.

  3. Add your identity to the agent:

    Type your passphrase when prompted.

  4. You can list the identity that have been added into the running ssh-agent:
    ssh-add -l
  5. You can remove an identity from the ssh-agent with:
    ssh-add -d

Please consult ssh-add manual for more options (identity lifetime, agent locking, ...)

Routing to and from the cluster

When setting up clusters, you can often only access the gateway/load balancer front computer. To access the other node, you need to tell the gateway machine to route your requests to the cluster nodes.

To take an example, suppose your gateway to the cluster is The controler machine is a computer outside the cluster. This is computer where the operator is controling the cluster behaviour. Your cluster internal adresses form the following network: On your client computer, launch the command:

route add -net gw netmask
This will only works if IP forwarding is activated on the gateway computer.

To ensure proper routing, you can maintain an common /etc/hosts file with entries for all computers in your cluster. In our example, with a seven-computers cluster, the file /etc/hosts could look like:   controler gateway    eddieware    yaws1    yaws2    mnesia1    mnesia2

You could also add a DNS server, but for relatively small cluster, it is probably easier to manage an /etc/hosts file.

Starting Erlang nodes and setting up the Erlang cluster

Starting a whole Erlang cluster can be done very easily once you can connect with SSH to all cluster node without being prompt for a password.

Starting the Erlang master node

Erlang needs to be started with the -rsh ssh parameters to use ssh connection to the target nodes within the slave command, instead of rsh connection. It also need to be started with network enable with the -sname node parameter.

Here is an example Erlang command to start the Erlang master node:

erl -rsh ssh -sname clustmaster

Be carefull, your master node short name has to be sufficent to route from the slave nodes in the cluster to your master node. The slave:start timeout if it cannot connect back from the slave to your master node.

Starting the slave nodes (cluster)

The custom function cluster:slaves/1 is a wrapper to the Erlang slave function. It allows to easily start a set of Erlang node on target hosts with the same cookie.

%% Argument:
%% Hosts: List of hostname (string)
slaves([]) ->
slaves([Host|Hosts]) ->
Args = erl_system_args(),
NodeName = "cluster",
{ok, Node} = slave:start_link(Host, NodeName, Args),
io:format("Erlang node started = [~p]~n", [Node]),
Shared = case init:get_argument(shared) of
error -> " ";
{ok,[[]]} -> " -shared "
lists:append(["-rsh ssh -setcookie",
Shared, " +Mea r10b "]).
%% Do not forget to start erlang with a command like:
%% erl -rsh ssh -sname clustmaster

Here is a sample session:

mremond@controler:~/cvs/cluster$ erl -rsh ssh -sname demo
Erlang (BEAM) emulator version 5.3 [source] [hipe]
Eshell V5.3 (abort with ^G)
(demo@controler)1> cluster:slaves(["gateway", "yaws1", "yaws2", "mnesia1", "mnesia2", "eddieware"]).
Erlang node started = [cluster@gateway]
Erlang node started = [cluster@yaws1]
Erlang node started = [cluster@yaws2]
Erlang node started = [cluster@mnesia1]
Erlang node started = [cluster@mnesia2]
Erlang node started = [cluster@eddieware]

The order of the nodes in the cluster:slaves/1 list parameter does not matter.

You can check the list of known nodes:

(demo@controler)2> nodes().

And you can start executing code on cluster nodes:

(demo@controler)3> rpc:multicall(nodes(), io, format, ["Hello world!~n", []]).
Hello world!
Hello world!
Hello world!
Hello world!
Hello world!
Hello world!
If you have trouble with slave start, you can uncomment the line:
%%io:format("Command: ~s~n", [Cmd])
before the open_port instruction:
open_port({spawn, Cmd}, [stream]),
in the slave:wait_for_slave/7 function.
posted on 2011-03-18 17:09 ivaneeo 阅读(969) 评论(0)  编辑  收藏 所属分类: erlang-分布式语言