[A small little survey]

Joey Raheb joeyraheb at usa.net
Thu Jun 21 09:39:09 PDT 2001

>What is your hardware setup (processor, motherboard, network, etc.)?

We are running a cluster of 20 AMDs running at 1.2GHz all on Asus A7V133A
boards communicating over a fast ethernet plane.

>Did you have any problems with the hardware or configuration?  What is
>your evaluation of the cause and solution?

No problems with the setup, only thing with AMDs you have to append the
following to the lilo.conf append="x86_serial_nr=1" that was the trickiest
thing we encountered.  Overall, the machines outperform every pentium3 setup
for what we do (MD simulations and procedures which involve FFT)

>Are you pleased with the performance and reliability of your cluster? 
>Please explain.

We couldn't be more pleased, this system has been easy to manage with only a
few hardware faults due to unknown power outages across the campus.
Performance/cost ratio is astounding!

>Assuming you have a limited budget (that should be everyone), what
>recommendations would you have concerning cluster hardware?

Determine if communications is your bottleneck, because spending the extra $
on myrinet might not be worth it.  A fast ethernet switch with 24 ports might
perform just as good, remember it depends on your applications, do they need a
faster communication plane or not??  There is a big difference in cost with
these two networking alternatives.  AMD offeres faster FPUs than intel P3s and
for a greater discount, you can save money there.

>What has been your experience with the following hardware and financial
>tradeoffs (assuming you've had some experience with them)?
>Intel vs. AMD processors:

AMDs won every test we performed (using G98, CPMD, ADF, etc.) Faster and
cheaper to say the least.

>SCSI vs. EIDE disks:

We only use SCSI on our server node because /home is NFS'd there

>Myrinet vs. Ethernet only vs. other network technologies:

We have only gone with ethernet because our applications would not benefit
greater from Myrinet, however, we are experimenting with channel bonding now
(cheaper than Myrinet and nearly doubles the bandwidth of Ethernet).

>Server level hardware (such as the supermicro 370DLE motherboard) vs
>workstation level hardware:

All of our compute nodes have workstation level hardware, while our server has
the SuperMicro 370DLE board with two 1GHz PIIIs, two SCSI drives, more RAM and
a GIG-E card to connect to the backplane of our switch.

Hope all this helps.


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