Enable access to GPUs#

GPUs are heavily used in machine learning workflows, and we support GPUs on all major cloud providers.

Setting up GPU nodes#


Requesting quota increase#

New GCP projects start with no GPU quota, so we must ask for some to enable GPUs.

  1. Go to the GCP Quotas page, and make sure you are in the right project.

  2. Search for “NVIDIA T4 GPU”, and find the entry for the correct region. This is very important, as getting a quota increase in the wrong region means we have to do this all over again.

  3. Check the box next to the correct quota, and click “Edit Quotas” button just above the list.

  4. Enter the number of GPUs we want quota for on the right. For a brand new project, 4 is a good starting number. We can consistently ask for more, if these get used. GCP requires we provide a description for this quota increase request - “We need GPUs to work on some ML based research” is a good start.

  5. Click “Next”, and then “Submit Request”.

  6. Sometimes the request is immediately granted, other times it takes a few days.

Setting up GPU nodepools with terraform#

The notebook_nodes variable for our GCP terraform accepts a gpu parameter, which can be used to provision a GPU nodepool. An example would look like:

notebook_nodes = {
  "gpu-t4": {
    min: 0,
    max: 20,
    machine_type: "n1-highmem-8",
    gpu: {
      enabled: true,
      type: "nvidia-tesla-t4",
      count: 1,
    # Optional, in case we run into resource exhaustion in the main zone
    zones: [

This provisions a n1-highmem-8 node, where each node has 1 NVidia T4 GPU.

In addition, we could ask for GPU nodes to be spawned in whatever zone available in the same region, rather than just the same zone as the rest of our notebook nodes. This should only be used if we run into GPU scarcity issues in the zone!


Requesting Quota Increase#

On AWS, GPUs are provisioned by using P series nodes. Before they can be accessed, you need to ask AWS for increased quota of P series nodes.

  1. Login to the AWS management console of the account the cluster is in.

  2. Make sure you are in same region the cluster is in, by checking the region selector on the top right. This is very important, as getting a quota increase in the wrong region means we have to do this all over again.

  3. Open the EC2 Service Quotas page

  4. Select ‘Running On-Demand G and VT Instances’ quota - this provisions NVidia T4 GPUs (which are the G4dn instance type).

  5. Select ‘Request Quota Increase’.

  6. Input the number of vCPUs needed. This translates to a total number of GPU nodes based on how many CPUs the nodes we want have. For example, if we are using G4 nodes with NVIDIA T4 GPUs, each g4dn.xlarge node gives us 1 GPU and 4 vCPUs, so a quota of 8 vCPUs will allow us to spawn 2 GPU nodes. We should fine tune this calculation for later, but for now, the recommendation is to give users a single g4dn.xlarge each, so the number of vCPUs requested should be 4 * max number of GPU nodes.

  7. Ask for the increase, and wait. This can take several working days, so do it as early as possible!

Setup GPU nodegroup on eksctl#

We use eksctl with jsonnet to provision our kubernetes clusters on AWS, and we can configure a node group there to provide us GPUs.

  1. In the notebookNodes definition in the appropriate .jsonnet file, add a node definition for the appropriate GPU node type:

         instanceType: "g4dn.xlarge",
         tags+: {
             "k8s.io/cluster-autoscaler/node-template/resources/nvidia.com/gpu": "1"
         // Allow provisioning GPUs across all AZs, to prevent situation where all
         // GPUs in a single AZ are in use and no new nodes can be spawned
         availabilityZones: masterAzs,

    g4dn.xlarge gives us 1 Nvidia T4 GPU and ~4 CPUs. The tags definition is necessary to let the autoscaler know that this nodegroup has 1 GPU per node. If you’re using a different machine type with more GPUs, adjust this definition accordingly.

    We use a prior variable, masterAzs, to allow for GPU nodes to spawn in all AZ in the region, rather than just a specific one. This is helpful as a single zone may run out of GPUs rather fast.

  2. Render the .jsonnet file into a .yaml file that eksctl can use

    export CLUSTER_NAME=<your_cluster>
    jsonnet $CLUSTER_NAME.jsonnet > $CLUSTER_NAME.eksctl.yaml
  3. Create the nodegroup

    eksctl create nodegroup -f $CLUSTER_NAME.eksctl.yaml

    This should create the nodegroup with 0 nodes in it, and the autoscaler should recognize this! eksctl will also setup the appropriate driver installer, so you won’t have to.

Setting up a GPU user profile#

Finally, we need to give users the option of using the GPU via a profile. This should be placed in the hub configuration:

        - display_name: NVIDIA Tesla T4, ~16 GB, ~4 CPUs
          description: "Start a container on a dedicated node with a GPU"
            - 2i2c-org:hub-access-for-2i2c-staff
            - <github-org>:<team-name>
              display_name: Image
                  display_name: Pangeo Tensorflow ML Notebook
                  slug: "tensorflow"
                    image: "pangeo/ml-notebook:<tag>"
                  display_name: Pangeo PyTorch ML Notebook
                  default: true
                  slug: "pytorch"
                    image: "pangeo/pytorch-notebook:<tag>"
              NVIDIA_DRIVER_CAPABILITIES: compute,utility
            mem_limit: null
            mem_guarantee: 14G
              node.kubernetes.io/instance-type: g4dn.xlarge
              nvidia.com/gpu: "1"
  1. If using a daskhub, place this under the basehub key.

  2. The image used should have ML tools (pytorch, cuda, etc) installed. The recommendation is to provide Pangeo’s ml-notebook for tensorflow and pytorch-notebook for pytorch. We expose these as options so users can pick what they want to use.


    Do not use the latest, main, or master tags - find a specific tag listed for the image you want, and use that.

  3. The NVIDIA_DRIVER_CAPABILITIES environment variable tells the GPU driver what kind of libraries and tools to inject into the container. Without setting this, GPUs can not be accessed.

  4. The node_selector makes sure that these user pods end up on the appropriate nodegroup we created earlier. Change the selector and the mem_guarantee if you are using a different kind of node

  5. <github-org>:<team-name> is only to be used if the hub is using GitHubOAuthenticator, and restricts access to the GPU only to members of that GitHub team. If allowed_teams is not used in other config in the profileList, you may need to also explicitly enable some other config (enable_auth_state and populate_teams_in_auth_state) for this feature to work.

Do a deployment with this config, and then we can test to make sure this works!


  1. Login to the hub, and start a server with the GPU profile you just set up.

  2. Open a terminal, and try running nvidia-smi. This should provide you output indicating that a GPU is present.

  3. Open a notebook, and run the following python code to see if tensorflow can access the GPUs:

    import tensorflow as tf

    This should output something like:

    [PhysicalDevice(name='/physical_device:GPU:0', device_type='GPU')]

    If on an image with pytorch instead, try this:

    import torch

    This should return True.

  4. Remember to explicitly shut down your server after testing, as GPU instances can get expensive!

If either of those tests fail, something is wrong and off you go debugging :)