[Beowulf] Small form computers as cluster nodes - any comments about the Shuttle brand ?

Gerry Creager gerry.creager at tamu.edu
Sat Aug 8 10:08:37 PDT 2009

Joe Landman wrote:
> David Ramirez wrote:
>> Due to space constraints I am considering implementing a 8-node (+ 
>> master) HPC cluster project using small form computers. Knowing that 
>> Shuttle is a reputable brand, with several years in the market, I 
>> wonder if any of you out there has already used them on clusters and 
>> how has been your experience (performance, reliability etc.)
> The down sides (from watching others do this)
> 1) no ECC ram.  You will get bit-flips.  ECC protects you (to a degree) 
> against some bit-flippage.  If you can get ECC memory (and turn on the 
> ECC support in BIOS), by all means, do so.
> 2) power.  One customer from a while ago did this, and found that the 
> power supplies on the units were not able to supply a machine running 
> the processor and memory (and disk/network etc) at nearly full load for 
> many hours.  You have to make sure your entire computing infrastructure 
> (in the box) fits in *under* the power budget from the supply.  This may 
> be easier these days using "gamer" rigs which have power to handle GPU 
> cards, but keep this in mind anyway.
> 3) networks.  Sadly, the NICs on the hobby machines aren't usually up to 
> the level of quality on the server systems.  You might not get PXE 
> capability (though these days, I haven't seen many boards without it).

Adding to Joe's comments... and having tried this a couple of years ago, 
the NICs are not up to the drill.  Plan to add Intel gigabit NICs. 
While they'll likely be TOE NICs, learn how to tune them and to stop TOE 
functionality on them.  I've nothing kind to say about Broadcom NICs, 
and am even less kind in HPC/HTC environments with hobbyist chipset 

> Just evaluate your options carefully with the specs in hand.  You will 
> have design tradeoffs due to the space constraint, just keep in mind 
> your goals as you evaluate them.

I'd be trying to find ways to get 1u systems and, if 8 is the number, 
you'll find they don't take up much room.

Gerry Creager -- gerry.creager at tamu.edu
Texas Mesonet -- AATLT, Texas A&M University
Cell: 979.229.5301 Office: 979.458.4020 FAX: 979.862.3983
Office: 1700 Research Parkway Ste 160, TAMU, College Station, TX 77843

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