Typical hardware

Carpenter, Dean Dean.Carpenter at pharma.com
Mon Mar 5 08:53:47 PST 2001

We're just now beginning to mess around with clustering - initial
proof-of-concept for the local code and so on.  So far so good, using spare
equipment we have lying around, or on eval.

Next step is to use some "real" hardware, so we can get a sense of the
throughput benefit.  For example, right now it's a mishmosh of hardware
running on a 3Com Switch 1000, 100m to the head node, and 10m to the slaves.
The throughput one will be with 100m switched all around, possibly with a
gig uplink to the head node.

Based on this, we hunt for money for the production cluster(s) ...

What hardware are people using ?  I've done a lot of poking around at the
various clusters linked to off beowulf.org, and seen mainly two types :

1.  Commodity white boxes, perhaps commercial ones - typical desktop type
cases.  These take up a chunk of real estate, and give no more than 2 cpus
per box.  Lots of power supplies, shelf space, noise, space etc etc.

2.  1U or 2U rackmount boxes.  Better space utilization, still 2 cpus per
box, but costing a whole lot more $$$.

We, like most out there I'm sure, are constrained, by money and by space.
We need to get lots of cpus in as small a space as possible.  Lots of 1U
VA-Linux or SGI boxes would be very cool, but would drain the coffers way
too quickly.  Generic motherboards in clone cases is cheap, but takes up too
much room.

So, a colleague and I are working on a cheap and high-density 1U node.  So
far it looks like we'll be able to get two dual-CPU (P3) motherboards per 1U
chassis, with associated dual-10/100, floppy, CD and one hard drive.  And
one PCI slot.  Although it would be nice to have several Ultra160 scsi
drives in raid, a generic cluster node (for our uses) will work fine with a
single large UDMA-100 ide drive.

That's 240 cpus per 60U rack.  We're still working on condensed power for
the rack, to simplify things.  Note that I said "for our uses" above.  Our
design goals here are density and $$$.  Hence some of the niceties are being
foresworn - things like hot-swap U160 scsi raid drives, das blinken lights
up front, etc.

So, what do you think ?  If there's interest, I'll keep you posted on our
progress.  If there's LOTS of interest, we may make a larger production run
to make these available to others.

Dean Carpenter
deano at areyes.com
dean.carpenter at pharma.com
dean.carpenter at purduepharma.com
94TT :)

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