[Beowulf] What can a HS student do with a small Beowulf?

Mark Hahn hahn at physics.mcmaster.ca
Sun May 21 13:37:28 PDT 2006

> Hypothetically speaking, I manage to get a small number of computers
> together in a working cluster, but now what can I do with it?

run parallel applications.

> Folding at Homeis my main computing hobby, but I already know what it

folding at home (like all the other internet-distributed parallel projects)
is embarassingly parallel.  that is, the work-to-communication ratio
is extremely high.  only a fraction of all possible parallel apps 
are like this: there are many compute-intensive applications which 
require quite a lot of communication.  we're talking many orders 
of magnitude more communication.  the only practical way to run such apps
is on a cluster with a dedicated, hopefully higher-speed net (like myrinet, 
infiniband, pathscale, numalink, etc - these are all much faster than

> won't take advantage
> in a cluster. I also don't do any kind of rendering or any large scale
> content creation, nor is writing computer programs a skill that I have.

I don't think anyone should build a cluster unless they need one.
it's an interesting exercise, but if you aren't driven by concrete
needs, you have no way to guide the choices or evaluate your success.

in other words, people build compute clusters to satisfy a need for more 
compute cycles.

> in accomplishment are the only things that I'll get by building a beowulf
> cluster. Is this more or less true, or am I missing something?

yes - I wouldn't waste time building a compute cluster if you have nothing
to compute.  instead, learn to program.  start with perl/python/ruby.

regards, mark hahn.

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