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LinuxHPC.org: Low Fees, No Fluster, with Today's Linux Cluster [Part 2]

May 14, 2003, 10:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Terry Shannon)

[ Thanks to Ken Farmer for this link. ]

In my last Linux article, entitled 'Low Fees, No Fluster, With Today's Linux Clusters,' I provided a brief overview of Linux' expanding role in the HPTC arena as well as in other market segments craving high performance at popular prices. As promised, here's a followup piece that discusses the birth of Linux clustering as well as some of the good and bad points to this new approach to computing on the cheap.

"VAXclusters appeared on the scene in about 1983, but it wasn't until 1994 that a group of NASA engineers developed the first Linux cluster, which they promptly awarded the 'Beowulf' sobriquet in honor of the hero in the epic poem. The birth of Beowulf was an exercise that consisted of equal amounts of scavenging and savvy: the engineers managed to resurrect 16 Intel 486-based PC that were consigned to the trash heap, lashed the systems together with 10Mbps Ethernet, and shoehorned Linux onto this aggregation as a distributed operating system. The result was a parallel compute engine composed of technically obsolete hardware, a free operating system, and a lot of hard work. The economy-class cluster achieved some ~70M FLOPS per second at a cost of around $40K-roughly ten percent of the cost of a commercial computer that could achieve 70MFLOPS in 1994. Since then, 'Beowulf' has been used to describe a class of Linux clusters than leverage a similar economy-class architecture to deliver high performance at bargain-basement prices..."

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