Recommendations for getting started

Jared Hodge jared_hodge at
Wed Feb 21 09:00:30 PST 2001

Derek Harter wrote:
> Hi,
> I'm sure you all get requests like this all the time, so pardon me in
> advance. But I was hoping I could get some recommendations on current
> networking solutions for setting up a Beowulf cluster, or possibly
> pointers to some up to date references on the many hardware options
> available.
> Just a little bit of background on our requirements, as best we know
> them at this point.  We are planning on building a small prototype
> cluster for now (4 dual-PIII nodes, RedHat Linux), to prototype and test
> our problem and learn some things.  Eventually we envision expanding
> upwards of 24 or 32 nodes (or more?).  While we do have some funds, we
> would like to keep from being hit with outrageous extra costs in buying
> hardware when we start expanding.
> Our big application will require lots of communication among the pieces
> while working together on the problem.  The communications will not be
> all that large, however there may be a lot of them and they need to be
> quick, so latency is a concern.  The pieces will be communicating
> directly with each other, and not through some central manager.
> We have experience in Linux administration and software, but are not all
> that familiar with the networking hardware options, especially those
> that would be ideal for cluster computing.  So our questions:
> 1) We were looking at GigaBit NICs and switches.  What are the features
> that we need to be aware of (wire-speed?)?  What are the gotchas?  Any
> specific recommendations.
> 2) Besides GigaBit, what other solutions might we want to consider.
> 3) Of course, any specific testimonials from people who have similar
> applications would be greatly welcomed.
> Thanks so much for any help,
> --
> Derek Harter                     \ Only in the dance do I know how to
> mailto:dharter at         \ speak the parables of the highest
> \ things   - Nietzsche
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Try and .
Both are expensive, but offer high end networking solutions (funny how
everything has become a solution these days, I guess it would be really
bad to call it a problem though).  We're using Myrinet with MPICH-GM
(myrinet's MPICH), RedHat and pentium nodes (currently II, soon to be
III), and PBS.  If you do go with something like Myrinet that has a
64bit, 66mhz PCI interface, make sure you get a motherboard that can
match it (like the Supermicro 370DLE), or you won't get full bandwidth. 
The Myrinet 2000 stuff is supposed to scale really well (financially
too), although we are using some older equipment.  Hope this helps.
Jared Hodge
Institute for Advanced Technology
The University of Texas at Austin
3925 W. Braker Lane, Suite 400
Austin, Texas 78759

Phone: 512-232-4460
FAX: 512-471-9096
Email: Jared_Hodge at

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