Joining PlanetLab

Last updated: May 22, 2007.

PlanetLab is organized as a Consortium of academic, industrial, and government institutions. Institutions join PlanetLab by taking steps listed below. Individuals who want to use PlanetLab must arrange to do so through their home institution. Click here for a list of sites currently hosting PlanetLab nodes.

Step 1: Review Documents and Apply for Membership

To begin the process, you must read the following consortium documents:

  • PlanetLab Consortium Governance Plan: This document describes the organizational structure of the consortium. It also describes the membership levels. Four different membership levels are available to for-profit companies (Charter, Full, Associate, and Sponsor), while academic institutions and non-profit organizations may join with no fee. (Academic institutions still need to have someone with signature authority sign the membership agreement.)
  • Hosting Requirements: This documents outlines the responsibilities of a site that hosts PlanetLab nodes. All Consortium members (except at the Sponsor level) are expected to maintain at least one site with each site consisting of at least two PlanetLab nodes.
  • Acceptable Use Policy: This document outlines permitted uses of PlanetLab, and the role each site plays in enforcing these rules.
  • Terms and Conditions of Membership: This document is pages 2-4 of the actual membership agreement. Page 1 of the agreement is the signature page for the various contacts for the applying institution. A full agreement (including page 1) is generated as outlined below.

Register your institution and initial site by visiting the membership application form. As part of this process, a PDF of the membership agreement will be generated for you. Your application will be processed when you return a signed copy of this agreement. You will need to supply the following information about your institution:

  • Membership Type (Charter, Full, Associate, etc.)
  • Institution Name
  • Institution Address
  • Institution URL

All members (except at the Sponsor level) also need to supply the following information about their initial site:

  • Site Name (generally, the same as the Institution name)
  • Site Address (i.e., physical address)
  • Site URL (i.e., a more specific URL of your department or project)
  • Site Geo Location (latitude/longitude - expressed as signed decimals)

You will also need to supply contact information (name, address, phone, fax, personal URL, and e-mail) for these roles:

  • Administrative Contact: this is the business contact (i.e., the person who handles contracts, invoices, etc.)
  • Principal Investigator: this is the person who accepts responsibility for researchers at your site. It is often a professor / lead researcher and must be an employee of your institution. Be sure that they read the Principal Investigator Guide which describes their roles and responsibilities. (Note that in the generated membership agreement, this person is called the "technical contact.")
  • Authorized Official: this is a person who can bind your institution contractually/legally. It is often a provost or contracting officer. Even though academic and non-profit institutions do not pay a membership fee, we still require the signature of an authorized official.
  • Technical Contact: this is the person we should contact when a node goes down or when an incident occurs. This is commonly a system administrator or graduate student. Be sure that they read the Technical Contact's Guide which describes their roles and responsibilities. Note that this is not listed on (and does not sign) the membership agreement.

Note that these roles do not have to be distinct people. For example, it is not uncommon for the Principal Investigator be the same person as the Technical Contact.

Step 2: Connect Machines

When your application is approved, all the persons listed above (except the Authorized Official) will receive e-mail notification. You will receive notification within 30 days of when we receive the signed agreement.

Once your membership application is approved, the second step is to connect machines at your institution to the PlanetLab infrastructure.

The connection process is documented in the Technical Contact's Guide. (If there are network administrators at your site that might be involved in supporting your PlanetLab nodes, have them read the Technical Contact's Guide as well.) Some of the steps are outlined below:

  • Acquire at least two server-class machines that meet the minimum hardware requirements. We strongly recommend selecting machines from the list of machines that are known to work. We cannot ensure that machines that have not been certified will run the PlanetLab software. Note that the installation of PlanetLab software on these machines will completely initialize the hard disk, destroying any information already existing on them.

  • For each of the above machines, get static IP addresses (whether assigned via DHCP or manually) and DNS entries (forward and reverse). Machines must be outside firewalls, not NAT'ed, and be subject to as few traffic restrictions as possible. (The Network Requirements section describes these requirements in more detail.)

  • Provide a "remote management" service so that PLC can reboot and/or power-cycle the machines when they are not accessible through the network. (The PCU section describes these requirements in more detail.)

  • Install software on each machine, as outlined in the Node Installation section, to connect it to PlanetLab.

Additional Information

If you have additional questions about the PlanetLab Consortium, please send mail to

If need technical assistance connecting your machines to the PlanetLab infrastructure, please send mail to