WinNT/Linux hybrids?

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at
Mon Feb 26 11:32:20 PST 2001

-----Original Message-----
From: Jag <agrajag at>
To: Beowulf (E-mail) <beowulf at>
Date: Monday, February 26, 2001 11:12 AM
Subject: Re: WinNT/Linux hybrids?

On Mon, 26 Feb 2001, Jim Lux wrote:

> What would be the possibility of building a cluster using WinNT
> (or NT server) on the head/worldly node and Linux on the (diskless)
> nodes.  You'd use one of the many NT ssh or Xwindows servers to talk to
> nodes.  Is it possible to netboot Linux from a NT server (what has to be
> running on NT to make this work)?

Hmm.. that's kinda impractical.  If you want to use something like MPI,
you need a binary that will run on all the slave nodes AND the head
node, and I don't see that happening with an NT/Linux combo.  I'm sure
that just about all of the beowulf solutions for getting processes to
communicate will have problems when NT is thrown into the mix.

Not exactly a problem.. Say you've got N nodes in the cluster (excluding the
WinNT box).  Sure, your application might be structured as a master slave,
with MPI used to talk among them, but all that means is that one of the
cluster members is the master, and the remaining N-1 are all slaves.

All the WinNT box is doing is a) providing file services; and b) providing a
command line interface to the cluster nodes (e.g. via rsh, etc.)

> Why would one want to do this?  There is a huge installed base for
> powerpoint, excel and word, and eventually you have to get your  results
> into that form.  Also, you could start your cluster grinding on a lengthy
> task, effectively in the background, and continue using all the
> "institutionally supported" software (i.e. Office, Outlook, Project, etc.)
> in the foreground.

>Ok, I think you're going in the wrong direction here.  A beowulf cluster
isn't meant to run things like office/outlook/etc.  What you want to do
is give the person an NT workstation that they can run those programs
on, then also give them a /seperate/ beowulf cluster.  They can then use
the ssh/etc tools you mentioned earlier for NT to communicate with the
head node.

>A beowulf cluster is designed to be a compute powerhouse, and that NT
workstation is intended to do user interaction.  When you try to
combine those two, it takes away the effectiveness from both ends.

Which is exactly what I'd want to do... No reason to have NT doing the
computational work, but I'd like those cluster nodes to be diskless...


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