Cluster SSH with tmux

Date: 24 September 2013

I was working today and, as I glanced at #lopsa, I saw this little gem.

13:50 <geekosaur> tmux has a broadcast-to-all-terminals thing

Wait, what?! I had to check it out. It turns out that tmux has a window option called synchronize-panes which lets you “Duplicate input to any pane to all other panes in the same window.”

I’ve been using cluster ssh to occasionally log into a bunch of my boxes at once and run the same command on all of them at the same time. It’s really nice for troubleshooting checking on the same thing on a bunch of servers all at once. It works pretty well but has the drawback that it depends on having X available. That’s a concern if I have to bridge through my machine and work and want to talk to a cluster.

I played around a bit and came up with a way for me to replicate when I was doing with cssh. The first bit is the following script which is based on this example.


if [ $1 = 'cluster1' ]; then
    HOSTS="host1 host2 host3"
elif [ $1 = 'cluster2' ]; then
    HOSTS="hostA hostB hostC hostD hostE hostF"

for host in $HOSTS
    tmux splitw "ssh $host"
    tmux select-layout tiled
tmux set-window-option synchronize-panes on

Tmux can be controlled completely from the command line or from a script. This script takes a cluster name on the command line and opens a ssh session to each host in the list in a new pane. The last line is the magic. It turns on the synchronization so what gets typed in one pane is echoed to the others as well.

Now, this isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, the tiling doesn’t end up right when I use more than three or four servers. A quick C-z M-5 takes care of it but it’s annoying. (Note: I changed send-prefix from the default of C-b to C-z. Adjust your thinking accordingly.)

I’ve made the following changes to ~/.tmux.conf to make this easier to use.

bind-key M-s command-prompt -p "cluster" "new-window -n %1 'tssh %1'"
bind-key M-a set-window-option synchronize-panes

The first line maps C-z M-s so that it prompts me for a cluster name then opens a new window with all of the connections.

The second line provides an easy way to toggle the synchronization on and off. That makes it nice for ad hoc cluster views. Sometimes, I’m looking at a couple of servers and I want to perform a few commands on them both to check things. A quick C-z M-a and I can issue the commands to both servers. Hitting C-z M-a turns it off again.

There you go. A quick and easy way to get work on many servers all at once without the need for X.