A small little survey

Jared Hodge jared_hodge at iat.utexas.edu
Thu Jun 21 08:20:02 PDT 2001

Ok, I've got a bit of a problem and I need everyone's help (everyone who
is running a cluster at least).  We are considering buying a cluster,
but we need to stick with proven hardware.  We've been considering using
the supermicro 370DLE motherboard with 1 GHz PIII processors (1 per
board) and Myrinet 2000.  Our cluster will probably consist of 16 nodes
and one server.  I'm wanting to get responses from people who have
similar and/or very different configurations (AMD chips, ethernet
only).  We will be using our cluster for finite element analysis, and
our current cluster consists of 8 PII 350s plus server and we are using
a 32 bit 33 Mhz PCI interface with the older Myrinet (1.2 Gbps max - not
really half that with 32 bit PCI).  Personally I'm wanting to explore
the possibility of getting AMD chips but I'm told it's not a "proven
technology."  I would like to get a mass of responses from people who
are running clusters for scientific research and find out what
technologies are proven.  I'm personally not biased either way, but I
just want the most performance and reliability for the money.  I know
that the following questions are very vague, but I need responses from
people who have used the hardware and can share their experience.  Feel
free to add comments.  Please answer any or all of the questions in a
reply to me (you can reply and remove beowulf at beowulf.org as a recipient
since I don't think everyone wants to hear all of the responses).  I'll
summarize the responses in a mailing back to the list at a later time if
it is appropriate.

The questions:

What is your hardware setup (processor, motherboard, network, etc.)?

Did you have any problems with the hardware or configuration?  What is
your evaluation of the cause and solution?

Are you pleased with the performance and reliability of your cluster? 
Please explain.

Assuming you have a limited budget (that should be everyone), what
recommendations would you have concerning cluster hardware?

What has been your experience with the following hardware and financial
tradeoffs (assuming you've had some experience with them)?
Intel vs. AMD processors:
SCSI vs. EIDE disks:
Myrinet vs. Ethernet only vs. other network technologies:
Server level hardware (such as the supermicro 370DLE motherboard) vs
workstation level hardware:

Thanks for your help.
Jared Hodge
Institute for Advanced Technology
The University of Texas at Austin
3925 W. Braker Lane, Suite 400
Austin, Texas 78759

Phone: 512-232-4460
Fax: 512-471-9096
Email: Jared_Hodge at iat.utexas.edu

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