[Beowulf] building a new cluster

Tim Mattox tmattox at gmail.com
Wed Sep 1 07:52:44 PDT 2004

You didn't give us any information about your target workload
except that it uses MPI...  The nodes you describe seem fairly
capable for general use, but you could do much better
price/performance if your target workload was known.

For an example, our KASY0 cluster was much more than
36-40 nodes (128 nodes), and cost under $40k last summer.
But it's target workload allowed us to go diskless, 512MB RAM
per node, as well as single CPU nodes, not duals.  And so and
and so forth.  Details are on it's webpage:

You may find it interesting to try our Cluster Design Rules
expert system online here: 
It's parts database is perpetually out of date but you can
still play with it, or set up your own up-to-date parts database.

Depending your your code's memory access patterns and
needs, you may get dramatic speed differences between
Opterons, Athlon XPs, Pentium 4s, and Dual or Quad Xeons.

If your code uses cache aware core libraries like ATLAS for
the majority of its computations, then the P4 gets wonderful numbers. 
If your code isn't so cache friendly, the Opterons
are hard to beat due to their low latency memory controller.

And I won't even get into your network choices... suffice to
say, you have many, and deciding on which is best really
depends on your code's communication needs.

----- Original Message -----
From: SC Huang <schuang21 at yahoo.com>
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2004 00:36:12 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [Beowulf] building a new cluster
To: beowulf <beowulf at beowulf.org>

I am about to order a new cluster using a $100K grant for running our
in-house MPI codes. I am trying to have at least 36-40 (or more, if
possible) nodes. The individual node configuration is:
dual Xeon 2.8 GHz 
512K L2 cache, 1MB L3 cache, 533 FSB 
gigabit NIC 
80 GB IDE hard disk 
The network will be based on a gigabit switch. Most vendors I talked
to use HP Procurve 2148 or 4148.
Can anyone comment on the configuration (and the switch) above? Any
other comments (e.g. recommeded vendor, etc) are also welcome.

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