Beowulf on Sparc

Schilling, Richard RSchilling at
Mon Feb 19 10:41:48 PST 2001

I was waiting for someone to mention DEC clusters.  I cut my teeth on those
in the early 90's.  The clustering aspect was really hidden from the
end-user, but it gave the DECs their high -availability status.  The
clustering worked really well to distribute file systems, but I don't
remember exactly how the clustering worked with shared processes - except
that we could access any node from the same terminal by talking directly to
the terminal servers when we logged in (frequently, the newer Alpha mini was
bogged down by students wanting to use the new hardware).  OpenVMS also has
a messaging capability that can be used by processes, but you'll have to ask
someone who worked with it directly.  It was similar to PVM, but was made to
work almost like an e-mail system with inboxes and outboxes that a process
could use to transmit data between the nodes.

As an undergrad, we had a class on parallel architectures, and we did some
distributed/clustering work on Suns, as well as DECs, but that was mostly
academic . . . so, it had been around a while.  I'm just happy that the
addition of PCs to that realm with beowulf class clusters makes this
available for my home.

And of course, in health care we do some clustering, but again that is
hidden from the end user very well.

Also, check out the following article.

This article will also talk about a suttle, but definite addition beowulfs
with Java virtual machines.  It compares Java as used in a
beowulf/clustering environment on various machines including Sparc, FreeBSD,
Linux, and others.

Richard Schilling
Webmaster / Web Integration Programmer

Affiliated Health Services
Mount Vernon, WA USA
phone: 360 856 7129

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mattson, Timothy G [mailto:timothy.g.mattson at]
> Sent: Monday, February 19, 2001 10:04 AM
> To: beowulf at
> Subject: RE: Beowulf on Sparc
> Of course you can cluster on Sparc without Linux...
> At conferences, when I hear Beowulf people speak, I am frequently
> disappointed by a lack of historical perspective. I get the 
> impression that
> many people think clustering started with Linux and Beowulf.  
> This couldn't
> be further from the truth.  Clustering is quite old and 
> outside of changes
> to the kernel to support clustering, most of the major innovations in
> cluserting pre-date Beowulf.  
> From my experience, clustering really took off in the late 
> 80's.  At that
> time, the nodes most of us worked with were SUN 
> SPARCstations.  We were
> using p4, Express, Strand88, and Linda back then --- but the 
> "environment"
> that really caught people's imagination and pushed clustering 
> forward was
> PVM (with its first public release in 1989 version 2.4 -- if my faulty
> memory severs me correctly).
> Throughout the early 90's, there were a series of clustering 
> workshops at
> Florida State University (or was it the university of Florida 
> --- I always
> get those two mixed up) where we got together and shared 
> information about
> clustering.  Those early clustering workshops were some of the most
> enjoyable workshops I've ever attended. Just about everyone 
> who was active
> in clustering were at those meetings. It was an exciting 
> time.  The MPP
> world had nothing but scorn for us "young upstarts" and we 
> really had to
> work hard to prove we were a viable option for supercomputing. 
> If you look at those old workshop proceedings, you'll see 
> that all the major
> components of a Beowulf cluster were available and in use in 
> those days.
> Sure, there were major differences.  For one things, we 
> couldn't do anything
> to the OS kernel since we didn't have access to source code.  
> But in terms
> of what the user of a cluser sees --- the parallel 
> algorithms, parallel
> programming environments, batch-queue/Job-management, and 
> cluster management
> systems -- we had it all way back in the early 90's.
> So yes, you can cluster with Sparc.  It would be accurate to 
> say -- from my
> point of view -- that Sparc is where clustering really took off.
> --Tim
> P.S. So now I'm ready for someone from DEC to tell me that 
> clustering even
> predates SPARC.  To a certain extent, that may be the case, 
> but the old DEC
> clusters were not "shared nothing" clusters and were quite 
> different beasts
> -- weren't they?  
> Disclaimer: The opinions in this message are my own and do 
> not reflect the
> views of my employer.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Josip Loncaric [mailto:josip at]
> Sent: Monday, February 19, 2001 7:24 AM
> To: Raul Romero Wells
> Cc: Scott.Brown at; beowulf at
> Subject: Re: Beowulf on Sparc
> Raul Romero Wells wrote:
> > 
> > Easy, as a Sun's dealer said: "you can instal Sun's linux on it..."
> > 
> > Scott.Brown at wrote:
> > 
> > > This may seem to be a stupid question, pardon my 
> ignorance. I'm looking
> for
> > > information on building Beowulf clusters with ultra sparc 
> hardware. Any
> > > information would be greatly appreciated.
> Clusters do not require Linux -- in fact, a nice Solaris cluster was
> recently built at William & Mary:

SciClone is a heterogeneous cluster, using 64 Ultra 5 (single CPU
machines), 32+6 Ultra 60 (dual CPU machines), 4 Enterprise 420R servers
(quad CPU each) and an Ultra 60 front end machine.  This is a rich
environment designed to support a wide variety of research activities.


Dr. Josip Loncaric, Senior Staff Scientist        mailto:josip at
ICASE, Mail Stop 132C           PGP key at
NASA Langley Research Center             mailto:j.loncaric at
Hampton, VA 23681-2199, USA    Tel. +1 757 864-2192  Fax +1 757 864-6134

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