Quick Start

Available to: Students, Faculty, Staff

About the Linux Virtual Lab

The Linux Virtual Lab provides members of the BU Community with limited access to the BU Shared Computing Cluster (SCC) through the SCC OnDemand web portal. This interface enables remote access to a Linux system with interactive desktops, university software packages, and server-based applications such as Jupyter Notebook, RStudio Server, and Tensorboard Server.

The related services below may better serve Faculty, Staff, or Students needs.

Getting Started

To request an account on the Linux Virtual Lab, current Students, Faculty and Staff should click on Get Help above or email ithelp@bu.edu. Sponsored Guests may also request access and will be required to go through the regular Guest Account process including providing a valid passport or other documentation to confirm your country of citizenship.

Once you have a Linux Virtual Lab account, you will be able to log in to the SCC OnDemand Web Portal (recommended) and connect to the SCC Login Nodes with your BU login name and Kerberos password. A Linux Virtual Lab account allows you to create SCC OnDemand sessions that use a single CPU-core for up to 12 hours.

Your use of the Linux Virtual Lab is governed by Boston University’s Conditions of Use and Policy on Computing Ethics. By using your account on the Linux Virtual Lab, as well as other University computers, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions set forth there.

Available Software

The Linux Virtual Lab has access to SCC OnDemand sessions and also to most of the available software packages on the SCC, which can be accessed from the command line using the module system.

Learn to use the Linux Virtual Lab

Research Computing provides both in-person tutorials each semester and video training materials. The Introduction to Linux tutorial or video is particularly recommended as use of the Linux Virtual Lab requires some familiarity with the Linux command-line operating system.

In addition, the Shared Computing Cluster (SCC) documentation is generally applicable to use of the Linux Virtual Lab, although you will want to keep in mind that:

  • You should ignore references to Project Disk Space (e.g. /project, /projectnb, etc.) since these are not applicable to the Linux Virtual Lab.
  • The Linux Virtual Lab does not include any batch processing nodes. Any reference to batch processing, jobs, qsub commands, or compute nodes will not apply to Linux Virtual Lab accounts.


On the Linux Virtual Lab, each account has a 10 GB home directory that:

  • is protected by Snapshots to recover accidentally deleted files
  • uses hardware RAID to protect against data loss due to disk drive failures. (See the Data Loss Protection Policies.)
  • is backed up nightly for disaster recovery

To check your home directory quota, click the “Quota” tab in SCC OnDemand or type quota on the command-line.

Please note that additional disk storage space is not available for home directories. For additional temporary storage, you may use /scratch, but not /tmp. The /scratch directory is available for people who need a large amount of storage for a short period of time. Files in scratch are automatically purged after 30 days. If there is a critical shortage of scratch space, it may be necessary to purge files which are less than 30 days old. Files which have been “touched” but not modified will be treated as old and removed immediately.

System Messages and Support

We will periodically make important announcements regarding usage policies, software and hardware upgrades, downtime, etc. It is important to read these messages on a regular basis and we provide several methods for you to do so:

  • Email notifications for announcements and information regarding individual account status and usage.
  • Banners in the SCC OnDemand interface contain important announcements and notifications.
  • The system status page SCC Updates is updated with information on the current status of the system and any planned downtime.


  • If you are experiencing system problems, you may want to check the SCC Updates page to see if there are any general issues affecting the entire SCC.
  • For other assistance using the Linux Virtual Lab, please write to ithelp@bu.edu.