diskless clients? beowulf-newbie seeks advice

Chris Black cblack at eragen.com
Fri Jun 22 12:15:04 PDT 2001

On Fri, Jun 22, 2001 at 10:55:08AM -0700, Brian LaMere wrote:
> why does every guide around talk about diskless clients?  I mean...disks are
> stinkin cheap nowadays...
[rant about boss-man making silly hardware choices for cluster 
[other stuff about pvm, networks, etc deleted]

> Just a little genetics research firm, needing some serious horsepower to
> start running big hammer and blast jobs.  The data we have now is just the
> bare minimum we need to get by, but if we had things like a working beowulf
> the scientists upstairs would start making, since they'd be able to use it,
> much more data.  They hired me on as the unix guy here knowing I don't know
> squat about beowulfs, but that I really want to learn :)  Got "how to build
> a beowulf" <grin> and I've read the manuals for pvm, mpich, lam-mpi, etc,
> and several other beowulf how-to guides.  All are about diskless.  Is
> diskless better?  Is it just better because its cheaper?  Are there other
> reasons its better?  Would having gig-ethernet in the boxes instead of hard
> drives be far better performance-wise?

It seems like you are doing bioinformatics type stuff (BLAST, etc).
We have found that many of these types of applications are close 
to I/O bound, and especially when you consider having 50+ nodes 
stream lots of data over the net at the same time, using a local 
disk sounds better and better.
We use local disks here (we do bioinf stuff as well) and have a copy 
of some core data on each node. When we need more data, we push it 
over via rsync before computation begins. The performance of this 
is very nice and only requires a 10GB fast EIDE disk per node.
Management isn't bad since we have scripts to push data out and 
use systemimager (www.systemimager.org) to install/manage node 

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