Run an Experiment on Remote Machines

NNI can run one experiment on multiple remote machines through SSH, called remote mode. It’s like a lightweight training platform. In this mode, NNI can be started from your computer, and dispatch trials to remote machines in parallel.

The OS of remote machines supports Linux, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2019.


  • Make sure the default environment of remote machines meets requirements of your trial code. If the default environment does not meet the requirements, the setup script can be added into command field of NNI config.

  • Make sure remote machines can be accessed through SSH from the machine which runs nnictl command. It supports both password and key authentication of SSH. For advanced usages, please refer to machineList part of configuration.

  • Make sure the NNI version on each machine is consistent.

  • Make sure the command of Trial is compatible with remote OSes, if you want to use remote Linux and Windows together. For example, the default python 3.x executable called python3 on Linux, and python on Windows.



  • Follow installation to install NNI on the remote machine.

  • Install and start OpenSSH Server.

    1. Open Settings app on Windows.

    2. Click Apps, then click Optional features.

    3. Click Add a feature, search and select OpenSSH Server, and then click Install.

    4. Once it’s installed, run below command to start and set to automatic start.

    sc config sshd start=auto
    net start sshd
  • Make sure remote account is administrator, so that it can stop running trials.

  • Make sure there is no welcome message more than default, since it causes ssh2 failed in NodeJs. For example, if you’re using Data Science VM on Azure, it needs to remove extra echo commands in C:\dsvm\tools\setup\welcome.bat.

    The output like below is ok, when opening a new command window.

    Microsoft Windows [Version 10.0.17763.1192]
    (c) 2018 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
    (py37_default) C:\Users\AzureUser>

Run an experiment

e.g. there are three machines, which can be logged in with username and password.










Install and run NNI on one of those three machines or another machine, which has network access to them.

Use examples/trials/mnist-pytorch as the example. Below is content of examples/trials/mnist-pytorch/config_remote.yml:

searchSpaceFile: search_space.json
trialCommand: python3
trialCodeDirectory: .  # default value, can be omitted
trialGpuNumber: 0
trialConcurrency: 4
maxTrialNumber: 20
  name: TPE
    optimize_mode: maximize
  platform: remote
    - host:
      user: alice
      ssh_key_file: ~/.ssh/id_rsa
    - host:
      port: 10022
      user: bob
      password: bob123
      pythonPath: /usr/bin

Files in trialCodeDirectory will be uploaded to remote machines automatically. You can run below command on Windows, Linux, or macOS to spawn trials on remote Linux machines:

nnictl create --config examples/trials/mnist-pytorch/config_remote.yml

Configure python environment

By default, commands and scripts will be executed in the default environment in remote machine. If there are multiple python virtual environments in your remote machine, and you want to run experiments in a specific environment, then use pythonPath to specify a python environment on your remote machine.

For example, with anaconda you can specify:

pythonPath: /home/bob/.conda/envs/ENV-NAME/bin