[Beowulf] Upgrading to gigabit

Jeffrey B. Layton laytonjb at charter.net
Fri Apr 22 08:19:21 PDT 2005

Timo Mechler wrote:

> Hi all,
> I will be setting up a small cluster using some older servers very 
> soon.  They are IBM Netfinity 4000R's with 2x PIII 750mhz, 1024mb ram, 
> 2 x 9.1 SCSI hdd, and 2 x 10/100mbit onboard LAN.  Would we see a 
> performance increase by upgrading these to gigabit?  Or would it be a 
> waste of time and resources?  Thanks in advance for your help.

Hah! I'm going to beat rgb to the gun even though I'll be writing
considerably less :)

What application(s) do you currently run on the cluster? This
is the proverbial $64 question. If the applications are bottlenecked
by networking then you could see a huge leap in performance.
If the apps are bottlenecked by CPU performance, then you
will not likely see a big boost in performance (although NFS
performance would improve greatly using GigE).
   How many servers do you have? The 32-bit, PCI, Intel GigE
NICs are pretty good and inexpensive (less than $30). Plus you
could use something like an SMC 8505T (5-port) or 8508T
(8-port) GigE switch that will give you jumbo frames, for a
pretty low cost (the 8508T is about $100).
   There are other options as well. Since you have 2 FastE
ports, you could play with an FNN (aggregate.org/FNN/). Or
you could try channel bonding them.
   GigE is cheap enough that you could use channel bond GigE
and use something like MP_Lite
(www.scl.ameslab.gov/Projects/MP_Lite/) with your MPI codes
to take advantage of the bonded interface (caution: not all
MPI's can use channel-bonded GigE, but MP_Lite claims
that they can. However, MP_Lite is a subset of MPI, but it
captures the primary functions that most MPI applications use).

Enjoy! (and don't be afraid to ask lots of questions here).


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