Building a beowulf with old computers

Robert G. Brown rgb at
Mon Mar 10 07:36:46 PST 2003

On Mon, 10 Mar 2003 ds10025 at wrote:

> Good morning
> Where can I download a free copy of Scyld's Beowulf Cluster ? I found 
> so-far that you have to pay for this software.
> To save money the Master node will be use to monitor beowulf cluster, and 
> as a Redhat server to run other applications. If I use Scyld, with the 
> modified Kernal. Will I still be able to use the computer as a normal Linux 
> server?
> Without GUI I can get the installation down to approx 700MB, what is the 
> the min installation required for each node? I've been spending some time 
> experimented and looking for a list. Has anyone installed redhat with less 
> than 700MB?

You can run redhat or any other distribution DISKLESS if you have enough
system memory.  Or you can install just a stripped /, and NFS mount just
about everything (e.g. /usr) on top of it.  This lets you boot more
rapidly, and permits you to use your limited disk resources for swap for
your limited memory resources.

In the "old days" memory and disk were VERY expensive and pretty much
everybody ran LAN workstations this way -- small local installation,
mounting /usr, /home, or fully diskless workstations (e.g Sun SLC or
ELC).  It isn't horribly difficult -- it just arguably isn't as easy or
transparent to manage as RPM installs right onto a big local disk.  Some
people would argue anyway (and might even be right:-) that going "fully
diskless" can be even EASIER to manage and scales BETTER than any
diskfull install.  Once you account for the learning curve and capital
investment of time setting everything up, I'd guess that all the
efficient methodologies are roughtly comparable and all scale
exceedingly well.


> Thanks again
> Dan
> At 12:38 09/03/03 -0800, Auji Atwal wrote:
> >I've built a Beowulf with 486 machines !  It was humming along nicely with
> >a 2.4 kernel, LAM-MPI and some lightweight MPI applications.  I didn't use
> >a Beowulf 'packaging', just put in the components that were really needed.
> >
> >On 9 Mar 2003, D. Scott wrote:
> >
> > > Hi Beowulf experts
> > >
> > > I've got old computer that have 32MB RAM some with 1GB hard disk and 512MB
> > > hard disk and some with 16MB RAM. How best to build a beowulf? I've looked
> > > into OSCAR but that requires large about of disk & memory. SCE & SMA also
> > > require min 256MB RAM. Have anyone built a beowulf with low spec PCs?
> > >
> > >
> > > Thanks in advance
> > >
> > > Dan
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Robert G. Brown	             
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at

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