[Beowulf] Beowulf building book (fwd)

Douglas Eadline - ClusterWorld Magazine deadline at clusterworld.com
Mon Apr 18 07:23:42 PDT 2005

On Sat, 16 Apr 2005, Robert G. Brown wrote:

> And another.  Recycling old hardware into OTHER beowulfs is another
> often held dream, with the usual problem of getting functioning hardware
> from point A (where it is) to point B (where it is needed/wanted).
> There are also energy efficiency/Moore's Law considerations that have
> been discussed on list before.
> For this sort of thing to work, there needs to be some sort of "cluster
> exchange" site where people can post a list of nodes they'll give away
> and other people can offer to pay the shipping... maybe CWM can set such
> a thing up, or a list volunteer with a Green philosophy can contribute
> and periodically advertise...

I like that idea. I can set up a form and a "Used Cluster Hardware Page"
that could list the hardware, condition, location, and a contact. 

Although, The donor will have to pack up the hardware -- which can take 
some time and expense. (i.e. finding decent boxes to ship servers can be 

If there is interest in this, let me know. I actually have some old stuff
I would donate as well. (it costs too much to keep it running!)

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2005 02:01:19 -0500 (EST)
> From: EAGLESON NATHAN A <nae119 at psu.edu>
> To: rgb at phy.duke.edu
> Subject: Beowulf building book
> Dear Dr. Brown,
>    My name's Nate Eagleson, and as you might gather from my email address, I'm
> an undergrad student at Penn State. As you might guess from the subject line of
> my email, I'm a computer science major.
>    In particular, I'm a computer science major who has found himself with a
> lightweight semester at the end of his senior year, and decided to hunt up a
> good geek project to cap off my "career" as an undergraduate student. After
> reflecting for some time on what to do, the answer sprang to me in a blinding
> flash of the obvious:
>    Build a Beowulf cluster.
>    So, I took inventory of my resources, which happened to involve just about no
> money.
>    It was at that point that I had an interesting thought, which was more or
> less as follows: "There's a fair amount of old hardware in the world that
> people just throw out. This is bad for the environment, and it's also a waste
> of resources that might have some possible use."
>    This has provided me with something of a focus for the project, which is to
> see whether a smallish set of machines that are decrepit by modern standards
> can be used in parallel and/or pseudo-parallel fashion to make a useful working
> environment of some sort, rather than simply allowing old hardware to be thrown
> out and cause that little bit more of pollution.
>    My success in collecting hardware at no cost has been surprising so far;
> simply by poking my head into one recycling center twice in the past two weeks,
> I've been able to obtain four machines in the 200 - 400 MHz range. Two of these
> seem to be fully functional, while two others are not so, and will probably be
> stripped for parts if this is needed. None of the machines have Ethernet cards,
> but a little research has shown that this can probably be solved within even my
> financial means.
>    Well, you probably aren't terribly interested in hearing me rattle on about
> hardware. In particular, I wanted to say two things:
> 1) I have found the book you've written on Beowulf cluster design to be
> extremely helpful. Although parts of it were inapplicable to my case (I don't
> have much choice in terms of hardware options; I'll take what I can get ;-),
> overall, it gave me a very good introduction to the main ideas behind building
> a Beowulf, and to some of the practical implementational details. Having read
> through it once, I think I know more or less what to do, and once I've
> accumulated all the important hardware, I'll be going through it again, as I
> actually plan the cluster. I really appreciate the effort you've gone to in
> helping people like me learn about cluster computing, and if ever I have a
> chance to meet you, I'll most definitely remember the Beverage Modification to
> the OPL.
> 2) At several points in your book, you asked for user input, if we had any to
> give. At most points, being a complete novice, I of course have nothing useful
> to say. However, on the subject of recycling computers, I do have one thought:
> Give it away.
> If your hardware is too old for your company to get good use out of it, or to
> reasonably sell it, just offer it to those who are interested. To most people,
> it will have no value, but to students like myself, or to people with children
> who are bugging them for "my own computer", or to hardware hackers who could
> use a spare case or three, a stack of old machines offered for free is a
> wonderful thing, and every machine and/or part that someone takes home is one
> fewer in the landfill, for as long as they use it. It would also be good PR for
> a business or school, to be seen giving a block of old computers away to
> members of the community who could use them.
> I know of a large company in my area who throws out serviceable hardware, even
> relatively modern hardware that's still useful to almost anyone (such as 21"
> CRTs, when they bought a number of LCD screens). My friends who have
> connections there try to salvage what they can of it, but a great deal winds up
> being thrown out. It hurts to think that hardware is out there doing nothing
> but busily polluting the groundwater table (as you pointed out in this
> section), but it hurts almost as much knowing that people with an interest in
> computing could be using this older hardware for something useful, such as my
> current attempts to learn more about parallel processing.
> Everything I've seen in the Beowulf design book indicates to me that you and
> your colleagues do your absolute best to reuse old hardware and keep it working
> usefully as long as you can, but perhaps people who may run across your work
> will not do so. Reminding them that some people can make use of what they would
> otherwise throw out might be a good idea.
> Again, I enjoyed your book a great deal, and I think it has me pretty well
> prepared to tackle this project. Thank you so much for taking the time to write
> it.
> Sincerely,
> Nate Eagleson
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