Cascades is a 236-node system capable of tackling the full spectrum of computational workloads, from problems requiring hundreds of compute cores to data-intensive problems requiring large amount of memory and storage resources. Cascade contains four compute engines designed for distinct workloads.

  • General – Distributed, scalable workloads. With Intel’s Broadwell processors, 2 16-core processors and 128 GB of memory on each node, this 190-node compute engine is suitable for traditional HPC jobs and large codes using MPI.
  • Very Large Memory –  Graph analytics and very large datasets. With 3TB (3072 gigabytes) of memory, four 18-core processors and 6 1.8TB direct attached SAS hard drives, 400 GB SAS SSD drive, and one 2 TB NVMe PCIe flash card , each of these two servers will enable analysis of large highly-connected datasets, in-memory database applications, and speedier solution of other large problems.
  • K80 GPU –  Data visualization and code acceleration. There are four nodes in this compute engine which have – two Nvidia K80 (“Kepler”) GPUs, 512 GB of memory, and one 2 TB NVMe PCIe flash card.
  • V100 GPU – Extremely fast execution of GPU-enabled codes. There are 40 nodes in this engine, although one of these nodes is reserved for system maintenance. Each node is equipped with two Intel Skylake Xeon Gold 3 Ghz CPU’s, amounting to 24 cores on each node. There is 384 GB of memory, and two NVIDIA V100 (“Volta”) GPU’s. Each of these GPU’s is capable of more than 7.8 TeraFLOPS of double precision performance.

Technical Specifications

General 190 ca007-ca196 2 x E5-2683v4 2.1GHz (Broadwell) 32 128 GB, 2400 MHz 1.8TB 10K RPM SAS

200 GB SSD

Very Large Memory 2  ca001-ca002 4 x E7-8867v4 2.4 GHz (Broadwell) 72 3 TB, 2400 MHz 3.6 TB (2 x 1.8 TB) 10K RPM SAS (RAID 0)

6-400 GB SSD (RAID 1)




K80 GPU 4  ca003-ca006 2 x E5-2683v4 2.1GHz (Broadwell) 32 512GB, 2400MHz 3.6 TB (2 x 1.8 TB) 10K RPM SAS (RAID 0)

2-400 GB SSD (RAID 1)




V100 GPU 40  ca197-ca236 2 x Intel Xeon Gold 6136 3.0GHz (Skylake) 24 768GB, 2666MHz 3.6 TB (2 x 1.8 TB) 10K RPM SAS (RAID 0)

6-400 GB SSD (RAID 1)





  • K80 GPU Notes: There are 4 CUDA Devices. Although the K80s are a single physical device in 1 PCIe slot, there are 2 separate GPU chips inside. They will be shown as 4 separate devices to CUDA code. nvidia-smi will show this.
  • All nodes have locally mounted SAS and SSDs. /scratch-local (and $TMPDIR) point to the SAS drive and /scratch-ssd points to the SSD on each node. On large memory and GPU nodes, which have multiple of each drive, the storage across the SSDs are combined in /scratch-ssd (RAID 0) and the SAS drives are mirrored (RAID 1) for redundancy.


  • 100 Gbps Infiniband interconnect provides low latency communication between compute nodes for MPI traffic.
  • 10 Gbps Ethernet interconnect provides high speed connectivity and access to storage.


Cascades is governed by an allocation manager, meaning that in order to run most jobs, you must be an authorized user of an allocation that has been submitted and approved. The open_q queue is available to jobs that are not charged to an allocation, but it has tight usage restrictions (see below for details) and so is best used for initial testing in preparing allocation requests. For more on allocations, click here.

The Cascades queues are:

  • normal_q for production (research) runs.
  • largemem_q for production (research) runs on the large memory nodes.
  • dev_q for short testing, debugging, and interactive sessions. dev_q provides slightly elevated job priority to facilitate code development and job testing prior to production runs.
  • open_q provides access for small jobs and evaluating system features. open_q does not require an allocation; it can be used by new users or researchers evaluating system performance for an allocation request.
  • v100_normal_q for production (research) runs with the V100 nodes
  • v100_dev_q short testing, debugging, and interactive sessions with the V100 nodes

The Cascades queue settings are:

Access to ca003-ca196 ca001-ca002 ca003-ca196 ca003-ca196 ca197-ca236 ca197-ca236
Max Jobs 6 per user,
12 per allocation
1 per user 1 per user 1 per user 8 per user,
16 per allocation
1 per user
Max Nodes 32 per user,
48 per allocation
32 per user,
48 per allocation
32 per user,
48 per allocation
32 per user,
48 per allocation
32 per user,
48 per allocation
32 per user,
48 per allocation
Max Cores 1,024 per user,
1,536 per allocation
72 per user 1,024 per user 128 per user 336 per user,
504 per allocation
336 per user
Max Memory 4 TB per user,
6 TB per allocation
3 TB per user 4 TB per user,
6 TB per allocation
1 TB per user 4 TB per user,
6 TB per allocation
1 TB per user
Max Walltime 72 hr 72 hr 2 hr 4 hr 144 hr 2 hr
Max Core-Hours 36,884 per user,
55,326 per allocation
5,184 per user 256 per user 256 per user 16,128 per user,
24,192 per allocation
168 per user


  • Shared node access: more than one job can run on a node (Note: This is different from other ARC systems)
  • The architecture on the V100 nodes is newer than on the Broadwell nodes. Hence, for best performance, programs that are to run on V100 nodes should be compiled on a V100 node. Note that the login nodes are Broadwell nodes, so compilation on a V100 node should be done as part of the batch job, or by interactively accessing a V100 node.


For list of software available on Cascades, as well as a comparison of software available on all ARC systems, click here.

Note that a user will have to load the appropriate module(s) in order to use a given software package on the cluster. The module avail and module spider commands can also be used to find software packages available on a given system.


Cascades is accessed through traditional terminal means.

Terminal Access

The cluster is accessed via ssh to one of the two login nodes below. Log in using your username (usually Virginia Tech PID) and password. You will need an SSH Client to log in; see here for information on how to obtain and use an SSH Client.


Job Submission

Access to all compute engines (aside from interactive nodes) is controlled via the job scheduler. See the Job Submission page here. The basic flags are:

#PBS -l walltime=dd:hh:mm:ss
#PBS -l [resource request, see below]
#PBS -q normal_q (or other queue, see Policies)
#PBS -A <yourAllocation> (see Policies)
#PBS -W group_list=cascades

Shared Node

Compute nodes are not dedicated to a single job (as is done on BlueRidge). Cascades has more options for requesting resources to ensure the scheduler can optimally place jobs. Resources can be requested by specifying the number of nodes:ppn (like on BlueRidge), but also cores, memory, GPUs, etc. See example resource requests below:

Request 2 nodes with 32 cores each
#PBS -l nodes=2:ppn=32

Request 4 cores (on any number of nodes)
#PBS -l procs=4

Request 12 cores with 20gb memory per core
#PBS -l procs=12,pmem=20gb

Request 2 nodes with 32 cores each and 20gb memory per core (will give two 512gb nodes)
#PBS -l nodes=2:ppn=32,pmem=20gb

Request 2 nodes with 32 cores per node and 1 gpu per node
#PBS -l nodes=2:ppn=32:gpus=1

Request 3 cores with 2 gpus each
#PBS -l procs=3,gpus=2

Interactive access

You can submit a request for interactive access to a node. Such a request will be handled by the job scheduler, so there may be a wait before you gain access. You can request access to a Broadwell or Skylake node. A typical command requesting access to a V100 node would be:

  interact -q v100_dev_q -lnodes=1:ppn=24:gpus=2 -A yourallocationname

Once you get access, you can issue commands just as you would on a login node. When you are done with your work, issue a logout command, which will return you to your starting point on a Cascades login node.


This shell script provides a template for submission of jobs on Cascades. The comments in the script include notes about how to request resources, load modules, submit MPI jobs, etc.

To utilize this script template, create your own copy and edit as described here.