[Beowulf] small-footprint MS WIn "MinWin"

Glen Dosey doseyg at r-networks.net
Tue Oct 23 20:41:01 PDT 2007

On Tue, 2007-10-23 at 15:48 -0400, Robert G. Brown wrote:
> I expected the latter, actually.  Scyld may be a similar sort of model
> as well.  I was more curious about how many people on list are running
> clusters that are currently configured to run nodes set up for a minimal
> kernel or specialized kernel with little multitasking.
> This fits in the tradeoff I described.  Very large clusters shift the
> marginal benefit curve for the work and expertise required to run a
> cluster where the nodes are basically very stupid and very specialized.
> Easiest is to just make a kickstart file or package list for a "rich"
> node that has more than the bare minimum set of stuff installed, and
> that can still (for example) run logins and ssh's in userspace (if only
> for root and administrative users).
>     rgb

I would have to agree with this observation, as we are currently
migrating from a Scyld environment to a standardized Red Hat (insert you
favorite distro) environment. The issue is not that Sclyd has performed
poorly, rather that we find it inflexible when we need to do a variety
of different tasks with the same cluster resources. If we only ran one
or two MPI models we would undoubtedly find the minimalistic approach a
benefit in both speed and management. As it it, we run almost no
parallel or MPI codes. It seems more and more often we are temporarily
re-tasking cluster nodes to run Windows to run models (Windows modelers
found out we have fast boxes).

In the end, the ability to login to the nodes, use standard tools like
kickstart and pxeboot to provision the OS , be it Windows or Linux, and
integrate the various systems with different installs into the same
Infiniband and Gigabit network using the same storage has proven far
more valuable than the benefits from running a minimal kernel.


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