Beowulf & VMWare

Henderson, TL Todd Todd_Henderson at
Thu Oct 31 05:44:15 PST 2002

Just to add my two cents.

I've just jumped into the reboot the company computers for a 'midnight
cluster'.  It is actually, not working too badly.  We started it when we had
a bunch of new 1.7 ghz P4 boxes going out and I helped them set up the
image.  They(IT group) put on Windows, I put on Linux and installed grub as
the boot loader.  They are using that image to deploy the new machines with.
Now then, at night when people go home, instead of using the start menu to
log out, they do a restart and select linux.  I have a command that runs
during init on each machine that does a 'touch /cfd/nodes/`hostname`.  /cfd
is a nfs mounted directory that all the machines use for the cfd account.  I
then built some scripts that go to the /cfd/nodes directory, gather all the
hosts that have reported at around 6:30pm, build an input file for a mpi cfd
code and off it goes.  At that same time, I build a new .rhosts file and
.ghosts file and issue an 'at' command to stop my cfd job at 6:00am and
reboot all the nodes.  All the nodes are defaulted to windows in grub, so by
6:30 everyone has windows back.

So far, I'm getting about 30-40% participation, but I really haven't pushed
for better education/strong arming people to do it.  Once all the computers
get deployed I plan on going on a campaign to get everyone to do it.

It's not perfect, but it's cheap.  Considering ultimately, I may have access
to as many as 100-150 P4 1.7ghz boxes this way, I figure if I can get 50%
participation, it'll be a pretty good resource.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Robert G. Brown [mailto:rgb at]
> Sent: Wednesday, October 30, 2002 7:25 PM
> To: Donald Becker
> Cc: Marquardt, Paul; 'beowulf at'
> Subject: Re: Beowulf & VMWare
> On Wed, 30 Oct 2002, Donald Becker wrote:
> > Hmmm, what new feature does Grub have over LILO for this? 
> The one that is the most important is that grub doesn't 
> require the lilo
> command to be run on the root partition after a change in lilo.conf,
> which can be a catch 22 when going back from win to lin in an 
> automated
> way.  grub is also quite tolerant about boot geometry, and has a very
> cool interactive interface -- really a lot better and more 
> advanced than
> lilo, I think.
> > This also addresses a different problem.  Rebooting the machine to
> > switch applications is time consuming and unreliable, and it doesn't
> > allow dynamic load balancing or consistent control.
> I agree with this.  But it is cheaper than vmware (at roughly 
> $100/node
> and need to match with kernel), and for a very coarse grained scenario
> (cluster node at night, windows desktop by day, regular 
> schedule) it can
> be a considerably cheaper and adequate solution.
> vmware is a lot more sophisticated solution, of course, and 
> very good if
> you need to switch between OS's in real time.  We use it here to
> simplify administration of NT hosts in the offices, since it 
> is actually
> easier (marginally) to run/administer NT under vmware on linux than NT
> native, and gives us that ability to switch back to linux when weaning
> staff from WinXX.;-)
>    rgb
> -- 
> 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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