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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
“Beowulf.”

“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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