26 March 2020

Howto: Folding@Home – VMware Fling


VMware is doing their part to help make it easy for folks to contribute to the Folding@Home (F@H) project. They have packaged together an appliance as an OVA file on VMware Flings that you can deploy on any of their virtualization products either on your hardware or in a cloud, using Workstation or Fusion, or ESXi hosts. That means that with just a few clicks you can download and deploy a VM running on the super light-weight PhotonOS that has the F@H client pre-installed and is ready-to-go.

You might be asking why this is so great, I mean the client isn’t exactly difficult to setup on other operating systems. Well you are correct. This fling is geared towards VMware virtualization enthusiasts and professionals that already have homelabs or datacenters, with idle compute power they want to contribute. By using those idle resources and dedicating an VM appliance towards contributing, it basically becomes a set-it-and-forget-it deal that will always be chugging along in the background.

If you are new to virtualization, then deploying this appliance can serve as a great way to learn about flings, appliances, and deploying a VM in general while contributing to a cause.

Note: If you intent to deploy this in your company’s data center, or your work pc/laptop, you should make sure to have permission to allow for it from the appropriate people in your organization before deploying, just to cover your ass.

Step 1: Create your Passkey

If you don’t already have a username and passkey, then the first thing you’ll need to do is create your user and get your passkey. You’ll use this later as you deploy the appliance. If you already have yours, then proceed to the next step.

https://apps.foldingathome.org/getpasskey

Just to let you know, when I signed up earlier this week, it took a few hours for me to receive my passkey from F@H. So don’t get upset if you don’t hear from them immediately after clicking “Get Passkey”.

Step 2: Download the Fling

The first thing we need to do is download the OVA from the WMware Flings website.
https://flings.vmware.com/vmware-appliance-for-folding-home

Step 3: Deploy

Workstation

1. Double-click on the OVA file you download to launch VMware Workstation. It will present you a wizard to “Import Virtual Machine”.
Enter a name and file path for your F@H appliance, then click ‘Next’.

2. Now to work down the options from the left pane…

-Enter a hostname
-Enter an IP address (leave blank if DHCP)
-Gateway
-DNS

-Enter password for the appliance; VMware1!
*This is the root password for the appliance

-Enter you F@H username
-Enter your F@H team (Leave as 52737 to contribute as part of VMware’s team)
-Enter your Passkey
-GPU (If using a GPU change to TRUE, if you are using a virtual machine with a GPU, this must be in passthrough mode)
-Enter F@H management networks info (can probably leave alone)
-F@H password defaults to the OS password (VMware1!)

Then click ‘Import’.

Go ahead and use my F@H username & passkey if you really want to fold as me… It just means my F@H user will get credit for any folding you do.

3. Once the import is complete, it should automatically power on. Go ahead and power it off. The first thing I recommend to do is upgrade the VM.

Click on “Upgrade this virtual machine” and follow the wizard to upgrade it to the highest version that is compatible in your environment. For me, it is Workstation 14.x.

Because this is an OVA file and so easy to re-deploy if I screw something up, I choose to just alter the VM, and not make a clone.

4. Next step is to edit the VM and add more CPUs, if desired. Click on “Edit virtual machine settings”.

Click on ‘Processors’. From the “Number of processors” dropdown you can choose how many processors you want to dedicate to this appliance. Then click ‘Ok’.

5. Go ahead and power on your F@H appliance.

ESXi / vCenter

1. In vCenter or on your ESXi host, right click on your Datacenter/Cluster/Host and select “Deploy OVF Template”.

2. Select the OVA file you downloaded earlier, and click ‘Next’.

3. Give your VM appliance a name, and click ‘Next’.

4. Walk thru the rest of the wizard. Choose your computer resource you wish to deploy it on to. Review the details. Select your storage. Select your network.

5. Customize the F@H template setting for your environment.
-Hostname
-IP address
-Gateway
-DNS
-OS ‘root’ password
-F@H username
-F@H passkey
-GPU
-F@H remote management password

Then click ‘Next’ and ‘Finish’ to deploy your new appliance.

6. Once deployed, make sure the vm is powered off. Right click on the vm and select ‘Edit Settings…”. Select CPU and from the dropdown adjust the CPU to the desired number you wish to dedicate to your appliance, and click ‘Ok’.

7. Power on your F@H vm and you are ready to start contributing.

Step 4: Troubleshooting

Once your appliance is up and running, there are a few command that you will find helpful.

Start and Stop
/etc/init.d/FAHClient start
/etc/init.d/FAHClient stop

Restart
/etc/init.d/FAHClient restart
Status
/etc/init.d/FAHClient status
Check the Logs
/etc/init.d/FAHClient log -v
Check CPU stats
top

With the huge growth of contributors to F@H, it has made getting work units more difficult. If you check your logs and see messages similar the what is in my screenshot below, then your appliance IS working, it is just waiting for work.

Leave it running and you’ll eventually see it start chugging along when it gets a work unit.

Also, on the F@H fling website you can also find two PDFs, one about deployment and another with FAQs. Give those a look if you run into any other issues.

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Posted March 26, 2020 by IT.PWWF in category "PhotonOS", "VMWare", "Workstation

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