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Binary Freedom: Linux Cluster Overkill; Q&A with Dan Reed (NCSA) & Dave Gilardi (IBM)

Jan 27, 2001, 15:33 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Chris Ball)

[ Thanks to Brian for this link. ]

"It's not often you get a press release on your desk that informs you that two of the biggest names in high-performance supercomputing have decided that for their next two-teraflop baby, they'd like to use x86 servers and Linux. Not often at all, in fact. Historically, we've seen rooms full of Cray processors, SGI servers, and Sun babies with ten gig of RAM. Understandably, then, I was a little askance when I received an e-mail saying that the NCSA were to team up with IBM to build two Linux clusters- one being deployed in February and running Red Hat, and a second being implemented in the Summer, and running Turbolinux. Wondering whether I'd received a mis-timed April Fools' joke, I spoke to the Director of the NCSA, Dan Reed, and to Dave Gilardi; the Director of Linux Clusters at IBM."

"Binary Freedom: There's been talk about the clustering potential of Linux for a while- we've had Sun employees working on clustering leave to form the Linux Clustering Cabal, and various other Operating Systems have been ditched in favour for something with more computational power and less kernel locks... how scientific was the process of choosing Linux for the cluster? Is there some property of Linux that's going to help you out here?

Dan: Linux was chosen for a number of reasons. The first is the level of acceptance that it has gained in the scientific computing communities. ... The second is the availability of Linux on commodity hardware from a large number of vendors. ... It was also clear that Linux and Intel's Itanium systems are a very strong combination. We have been using them for quite some time and have seen very good performance on applications."

"Binary Freedom: Let's get down to hardware. We gather from your press release that there are two clusters being built. Can you give us some specs on this?

Dave: NCSA's Linux clusters will include more than 600 IBM eServer xSeries Intel processor-based servers, running Linux and Myricom's Myrinet cluster interconnect network. Specifically, NCSA has purchased 512 IA32 xSeries servers and 160 Itanium eServers. The Itanium cluster, to be installed this summer, will be one of the first to use Intel's next generation 64-bit Itanium processor. The two clusters will expand the proven capability that NCSA has already demonstrated with Linux clusters and both Intel architectures."

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