Government Technology: Beowulf: Slaying The Supercomputer

I put a new engine in my car, but forgot to take the old
one out. Now my car goes 500 miles an hour.
” That old Steven
Wright joke is pretty much the most concise explanation of the
distributed clustering technique known as Beowulf….”

“NASA researchers Thomas Sterling and Don Becker created a
16-node Intel-based cluster for the Earth and Space Sciences
project at the Goddard Space Flight Center in 1994. They named it

“It was one of those rare occasions when you had a formal,
funded and programmatic requirement that had a cost cap involved,”
Sterling recalls. “There, the requirement was whatever system was
used for the purpose, that it be cheap enough to be dedicated to a
single user. They needed to have the scientists able to have a
system dedicated to the manipulation, visualization and product
generalization of data. They couldn’t give them supercomputers;
those were too expensive. That drove us much more sharply to look
at alternatives.”

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