GCP VM with Nvidia set-up and Convenience Scripts

Everything from CLI

This is a short-but-complete guide to setting up a Google Cloud Virtual Machine with Nvidia drivers and cuda installed.


These are the steps that this involves, and leaves the final machine pretty quick to start/stop:

  • Create a preemptible GPU-enabled GCP machine
  • Set up ssh so that it can be used easily
    • Include ‘tunnels’ that enable ports for jupyter or tensorboard to be accessed securely through plain ssh
    • With scripts to enable fast start/stop and mount/unmount of the VM
  • Install software on the GCP machine:
    • the Nvidia drivers with cuda
  • The Deep Learning tools can be set up in a virtual enviroment as usual

All-in-all, the below enables us to use GCP as a good test-bed for projects for Deep Learning - while keeping expenses under control!

Create a suitable Google Cloud VM

This setup includes the more recent 2022-04 release of Ubuntu :

export PROJECT_NAME="my-special-project"
gcloud config set project ${PROJECT_NAME}
export INSTANCE_NAME="minerl-vm-host"

And then run this to actually create the instance:

export ZONE="asia-southeast1-b"  # This is good for where I am located (Singapore)
export GCP_USER=`whoami`

gcloud compute --project=${PROJECT_NAME} instances create ${INSTANCE_NAME} \
  --zone=${ZONE} \
  --machine-type=n1-standard-8 \
  --subnet=default --network-tier=PREMIUM \
  --no-restart-on-failure --maintenance-policy=TERMINATE \
  --preemptible \
  --accelerator=type=nvidia-tesla-t4,count=1 \
  --image=ubuntu-2204-jammy-v20220902 --image-project=ubuntu-os-cloud \
  --boot-disk-size=50GB --boot-disk-type=pd-standard --boot-disk-device-name=${INSTANCE_NAME} \
  --no-shielded-secure-boot --shielded-vtpm --shielded-integrity-monitoring --reservation-affinity=any \
  --metadata=startup-script="#! /bin/bash
      su --login --command=/home/${GCP_USER}/3-on-start.bash ${GCP_USER}"

This complains about Disk <200Gb, but finally declares …


NB: The ./3-on-start.bash bit adds some extensibility for auto-running processes later - and we’ll use it to check whether the instance is ready for ssh, so we’ll put something there just below.

FWIW, from the GCP VM pricing estimate (though the numbers below are only when it’s switched ON, apart from the persistent disk) is :

$154.71 monthly estimate - That's about $0.212 hourly (Spot/Preemptible pricing)
  8 vCPUs + 30 GB memory          $68.91/month  ($0.0944/hr)
  1 NVIDIA Tesla T4 GPU           $80.30/month  ($0.11/hr)
  50 GB standard persistent disk   $5.50/month  

So : for US 22 cents an hour, we have an 8 core machine with 30GB of RAM, and a 16Gb GPU. Pretty Nice!

The --accelerator=type=nvidia-tesla-t4,count=1 choice is clearly one that depends on your requirements - at the T4 level, it just makes the instance like a more reliable colab, but with the option for tensorboard, persistence and local disk mounting (to give some key advantages).

The --machine-type=N1-standard-8 choice may be a bit of an overkill for a Deep Learning instance, though (compared to scaling up the GPU side) it’s relatively low incremental cost for the additional room / cores provided.

Now, log into the instance and create an empty 3-on-start.bash file:

gcloud compute instances start ${INSTANCE_NAME}  # if it's not already running
gcloud compute instances ssh ${INSTANCE_NAME}

# Now as a regular user on the new GCP machine:
touch 3-on-start.bash
chmod 755 3-on-start.bash 

# And tidy up
gcloud compute instances stop ${INSTANCE_NAME}  # Stop the billing ASAP

Scripting the instance

In a previous blog post, I’ve given some important CLI commands to bring up the instance manually, but this is the version I’ve added some scripted versions to my ~/.bashrc which simplifies life.

Once the ~/.bashrc (the new stuff is given below) executes, you can then start development sessions with :

gcp_start  # Can also add an optional instance_name to these

Note that I have a standard location from where I launch the instance, which includes a folder called ./gcp_base so that the main user directory of the GCP machine gets mounted there, and I can then edit files on the VM as if they were just local files (i.e. any local editor will work directly).

And then do the following when finished :


Code to put in your ~/.bashrc:

# Yikes : Python 3.10 is too advanced for Google Cloud SDK
export CLOUDSDK_PYTHON=python2
export GCP_SERVER_DEFAULT='mdda-jupyter'

# https://linuxize.com/post/how-to-create-bash-aliases/
function gcp_start {
  echo "Starting : ${INSTANCE_NAME}"
  gcloud compute instances start ${INSTANCE_NAME}
  gcloud compute config-ssh
  export GCP_ADDR=`grep "Host ${INSTANCE_NAME}" ~/.ssh/config | tail --bytes=+6`
  # See : https://medium.com/google-cloud/few-tips-and-tricks-with-gce-startup-script-323433e2b5ee
  while [[ -z "$status" ]];
    sleep 3;
    echo -n "."
    status=$(ssh ${GCP_ADDR} 'grep -m 1 "startup-script exit status" /var/log/syslog' 2>&-)
  echo ""
  ssh ${GCP_ADDR} -L 8585:localhost:8585 -L 8586:localhost:8586 -L 5005:localhost:5005 # ... etc

function gcp_stop {
  echo "Stopping : ${INSTANCE_NAME}"
  gcloud compute instances stop ${INSTANCE_NAME}

function gcp_mount_and_edit {
  echo "Mounting : ${INSTANCE_NAME}"
  export GCP_ADDR=`grep "Host ${INSTANCE_NAME}" ~/.ssh/config | tail --bytes=+6`
  sshfs ${GCP_ADDR}:. ./gcp_base -o reconnect -o follow_symlinks
  pushd ./gcp_base/reddragon/faces && geany -i && popd &

function gcp_umount {
  echo "UnMounting all"
  fusermount -u ./gcp_base

Looking through the code above, hopefully you can see :

  • There’s a GCP_SERVER_DEFAULT setting for the INSTANCE_NAME
    • This can be overridden on the command line
  • The start script :
    • Waits for the VM to be fully ready (printing a dot each time - normally 5 dots get printed);
    • Sets up GCP_ADDR as a convenience variable;
    • Performs an ssh into the machine that includes port-forwarding for 8585, 8586 and 5005
      • just some useful ports (for instance for jupyter, tensorboard, FastAPI to be present on)
  • The mount script :
    • Mounts the user directory onto ./gcp_base locally (as mentioned above)
      • so that you can edit, or view/copy files, using purely local development tools
  • The stop and umount scripts are self-explanatory

Install Nvidia drivers

Use ssh ${GCP_ADDR} to get into the GCP machine, and run (these instructions basically follow those from Nvidia).

The following installs the nvidia driver:

sudo apt-get update

NVIDIA_DRIVER_VERSION=$(sudo apt-cache search 'linux-modules-nvidia-[0-9]+-gcp$' | awk '{print $1}' | sort | tail -n 1 | head -n 1 | awk -F"-" '{print $4}')

sudo apt install linux-modules-nvidia-${NVIDIA_DRIVER_VERSION}-gcp nvidia-driver-${NVIDIA_DRIVER_VERSION}
# ~450Mb of new stuff to install...
Scanning processes...                                                                                                                      
Scanning linux images...                                                                                                                   
Running kernel seems to be up-to-date.
No services need to be restarted.
No containers need to be restarted.
No user sessions are running outdated binaries.
No VM guests are running outdated hypervisor (qemu) binaries on this host.

sudo modprobe nvidia  # load the driver... (or you can reboot the server)
""" OUTPUT :
Sun Sep  4 18:49:09 2022       
| NVIDIA-SMI 515.65.01    Driver Version: 515.65.01    CUDA Version: 11.7     |
| GPU  Name        Persistence-M| Bus-Id        Disp.A | Volatile Uncorr. ECC |
| Fan  Temp  Perf  Pwr:Usage/Cap|         Memory-Usage | GPU-Util  Compute M. |
|                               |                      |               MIG M. |
|   0  Tesla T4            Off  | 00000000:00:04.0 Off |                    0 |
| N/A   72C    P8    19W /  70W |      2MiB / 15360MiB |      0%      Default |
|                               |                      |                  N/A |

Install Nvidia cuda

The following installs the cuda drivers:

# This section is one command to copy-paste:
sudo tee /etc/apt/preferences.d/cuda-repository-pin-600 > /dev/null <<EOL
Package: nsight-compute
Pin: origin *ubuntu.com*
Pin-Priority: -1

Package: nsight-systems
Pin: origin *ubuntu.com*
Pin-Priority: -1

Package: nvidia-modprobe
Pin: release l=NVIDIA CUDA
Pin-Priority: 600

Package: nvidia-settings
Pin: release l=NVIDIA CUDA
Pin-Priority: 600

Package: *
Pin: release l=NVIDIA CUDA
Pin-Priority: 100

# And then...
sudo apt install software-properties-common

# See : https://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/cuda/repos/
sudo apt-key adv --fetch-keys https://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/cuda/repos/ubuntu2204/x86_64/3bf863cc.pub
sudo add-apt-repository "deb https://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/cuda/repos/ubuntu2204/x86_64/ /"

# Somehow, the Google suggested multiline script didn't deliver the goods...
apt-cache madison cuda-drivers
#cuda-drivers | 515.65.01-1 | https://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/cuda/repos/ubuntu2204/x86_64  Packages
#cuda-drivers | 515.48.07-1 | https://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/cuda/repos/ubuntu2204/x86_64  Packages
#cuda-drivers | 515.43.04-1 | https://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/cuda/repos/ubuntu2204/x86_64  Packages

# Force in the required version...

sudo apt install cuda-drivers-${NVIDIA_DRIVER_VERSION}=${CUDA_DRIVER_VERSION} cuda-drivers=${CUDA_DRIVER_VERSION}

CUDA_VERSION=$(apt-cache showpkg cuda-drivers | grep -o 'cuda-runtime-[0-9][0-9]-[0-9],cuda-drivers [0-9\.]*' | while read line; do
   if dpkg --compare-versions ${CUDA_DRIVER_VERSION} ge $(echo $line | grep -Eo '[[:digit:]]+\.[[:digit:]]+') ; then
       echo $(echo $line | grep -Eo '[[:digit:]]+-[[:digit:]]')
# 11-7
sudo apt install cuda-${CUDA_VERSION}
# LOTS (5Gb+) more software gets installed...

sudo nvidia-smi
# See the updated cuda version at the top..

/usr/local/cuda/bin/nvcc --version
#nvcc: NVIDIA (R) Cuda compiler driver
#Copyright (c) 2005-2022 NVIDIA Corporation
#Built on Wed_Jun__8_16:49:14_PDT_2022
#Cuda compilation tools, release 11.7, V11.7.99
#Build cuda_11.7.r11.7/compiler.31442593_0

NB: Since the hard disk we’ve chosen is Persistent, all of this installation only needs to be done once.

Install Deep Learning frameworks

See my previous blog post for details.

NB: If you actually want to run the Deep Learning environment within a container, skip this step and head over to my next blog post.

Terminate the GCP VM when done…

Using the scripted commands from above

# And double-check on the GCP browser UI that the machine really is stopped - just to be extra sure


All done!


The above process for ‘GCP machine as local GPU’ works so well that I sold my local GPU (Nvidia Titan X 12Gb, Maxwell) at the beginning of 2022, and migrated onto GCP for ‘real-time’ development. One benefit (apart from all-in cost) has also been the ability to seamlessly upgrade to a larger GPU set-up once the code works, without having to make an infrastructure changes (i.e. disk can be brought up on a larger machine near instantly).

Shout-out to Google for helping this process by generously providing Cloud Credits to help get this all implemented!

Martin Andrews

{Finance, Software, AI} entrepreneur, living in Singapore with my family.

blog comments powered by Disqus