Beowulf OS and Installation

Robert G. Brown rgb at
Fri Feb 22 06:49:45 PST 2002

On Fri, 22 Feb 2002 AskB0b at wrote:

> I was curious as to if Redhat was an acceptable choice and if version 5, 6, 
> or 7 was preferred?  I am working with very limited HDs so I need to know 
> what packages are necessary and which ones aren't so important.

Red Hat is fine.  For reasons of security and quality I'd strongly
recommend 7.2 (latest) over any earlier versions.  The kernel is better,
the compilers are better, and everything is much more secure than it was
in 5.x or 6.2 or even 7.0.  If you do decide to go with a 6.x version
because your disks are >>really<< tiny you'll have to work pretty hard
to secure it from the base distribution -- there were some pretty
horrible security bugs discovered in lots of the standard systems tools
and even the kernels in this family, although overall they were still
quite functional.

As far as disk requirements are concerned, we have very nice 7.2 nodes
installed in about a GB.  These nodes are still pretty "fat" in their OS
package selection as they have so much surplus disk that there is no
point in being stingy and finding later that you're missing something
that might, conceivably, be useful.  For example, they have X.  You
could probably strip an installation down by hundreds of MB and still
have lots of tools and libraries to play with.  Don't forget that in 7.2
it is strongly recommended that you have 2x memory in swap, so factor
that into your configurations.  

Also, minimum memory requirements for 7.2 to run smoothly without
excessive swapping or paging in a typical installation are probably in
the ballpark of 64 MB, maybe twice that if you ever plan to run X on a
node.  Then there are your application requirements.  Personally I'd
recommend at LEAST 128 MB of main memory per node, and 256 MB or more
would be better.  Thus plan on at least 256-512MB of swap in your disk
budget, more if you have lots of memory.

The list of packages "required" to make a node depends very much on what
you've got to play with (2 GB disks would be ok, 4 GB would be more than
enough, but 1 GB disks and you'll have to work some).  If you let me
know what "very limited HD's" are these days (with the smallest disks
being currently sold for <$100 in the 30-40 GB range) then I'll come up
with some hack of our current beowulf kickstart that might work for you.
If I can -- note that 1 GB disks will really require some work.  Of
course, 1 GB disks are what, six or seven years old by now?  Might be
time to upgrade?


Robert G. Brown	             
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at

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