Justin Kiggins

Zero Configuration Remote Jupyter Server

April 18, 2016 | 2 Minute Read

My personal laptop has a modest 4 core CPU, only 4 gigs of RAM and a 256GB hard drive. One of the servers in our lab, on the other hand, has 24 cores, 128GB of RAM, a 20TB file server, two Nvidia Tesla K40s, and one Titan Z GPU.

Which would you prefer to run your analyses on?

A while ago I set up Jupyter/IPython notebook servers for each user on our lab server. It hides them behind an nginx server, giving everyone a URL to access their notebooks that run on the server. It works, but there’s quite a bit of overhead involved (supervisord, nginx, etc).

The new postdoc in the lab showed me a way easier way to run a notebook remotely w/ no overhead. No nginx, no firewall configuration, and as secure as ssh. And now I’m going to show you.

Login to your server via ssh, then fire up a jupyter notebook w/ "no-browser" and give it a port:

jupyter notebook --no-browser --port=8888

So now you have a jupyter notebook running on your server at localhost:8888

Next, ssh into the server and forward a local port to the server’s port where jupyter is running:

ssh -NL 8888:localhost:8888 username@server

Now, open your browser and go to localhost:8888 and BAM you’ve got your remote jupyter server in your browser.

This approach is incredibly flexible… as long as you can open up an ssh connection to the server, you can run your notebook on the server using your browser as the interface:

This opens up tons of possibilities…

  • If you use multiple Python environments on your server (say, one for each project), this methods lets you easily easily switch between them.
  • Even if you don’t have a headless server you need to connect to, maybe you are on a 5 hour flight and want to connect back to your workstation in the office. Easy peasy.

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

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