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Crossroads: Parallel Computing With Linux

Sep 29, 1999, 05:50 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Forrest Hoffman, William Hargrove)

"We became involved in cluster computing more than two years ago, after developing a proposal for the construction of a Beowulf cluster to support a handful of research projects. The proposal was rejected, but because we had already begun development of a new high-resolution landscape ecology application, we decided to build a cluster out of surplus PCs (primarily Intel 486s) destined for salvage. We began intercepting excess machines at federal facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and processing them into usable nodes. By September 1997, we had a functional parallel computer system built out of no-cost hardware..."

"Anyone can construct a parallel computer adequate for teaching parallel programming and running parallel codes--often using existing or excess PCs. PCs in an established computer laboratory can be adapted for dual use, dual-boot systems so that they can be rebooted into either Linux or Microsoft Windows, depending on the present need. Alternatively, unused equipment can be collected and fashioned into a parallel system as we have done."

"No two Beowulf clusters are the same. In fact, their hardware and software configurations are so flexible and customizable that they present a wide array of possibilities. In this tutorial, we hope to provide some guidelines and considerations for narrowing this wide field of choices. While every Beowulf cluster is different and configurations are dictated by application needs, some minimum requirements can be specified."

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