[Beowulf] Cluster Novice. I want to know more about user space

Mark Westwood mark.westwood at ohmsurveys.com
Thu Jan 20 00:26:23 PST 2005


I manage a small cluster here, so my answers are based on experience of 
one Beowulf.  The cluster runs on SuSE Linux, which is probably 
irrelevant to any of the answers.  We use it for running Fortran codes 
crunching a lot of numbers in parallel - and intended use does have some 
influence on the configuration of a cluster.

Richard Chang wrote:
> Hi all,
> Here is my situation.
> I am really new to clusters and I am assingned the task to learn about 
> it. As maintaining one such cluster will become my bread and butter.
> Let me start. I want to know how is a cluster viewed from the Desktop of 
> a User. I have to maintain a LINUX Cluster and Is it same as the user 
> logs in to a Standalone Linux Box. Will he see all the nodes as a whole 
> or can he see all the nodes individually.
Regular users log on to the head node which is just another Linux box. 
We use grid engine for job scheduling, so users submit their jobs to 
grid engine, which takes care of placing them onto the compute nodes. 
Regular users never log on directly to the compute nodes - though I 
guess we could construct an artificial (for us at least) scenario where 
this would be useful.
> Is he going to see only the master node? which perhaps is the only Node 
> connected to the site network and the rest of the Nodes are connected to 
> the master node, thru some internal network not accessable to the site 
> network.
Yes, the regular user only 'sees' the head node.  The cluster has a 
private network not shared with the office network.  I guess we could 
configure it differently and effectively put all the compute nodes on 
the office network, but that's kind of moving towards Low Performance 
Computing and we put a lot of effort into extracting High Performance 
from the cluster.

> When we login to the Cluster, are we connected to the whole setup or 
> just the master node?.
Best think of it as just logging into the cluster.  But like the 
marketeers say, 'the network is the computer' (or is that 'the computer 
is the network' ?) so the user gets all the cluster services while 
running an interactive session on the head node.

> What happens to the abundant Hard disk space we have in all the other 
> nodes, Can the user use it?. If yes how, coz he is logging into the 
> master node only and how can he access the other nodes. If the hard disk 
> space is only used for scratch, then why do we need a 72Gig Hard drive 
> for that matter?.
The cheap and cheerful IDE disks in the compute nodes store O/S etc. 
Grendel forbid that they would ever be used for swap space during a 
computation but it does happen sometimes.  All the useful, fast SCSI 
disks are in a RAID array attached to the head node.  But this 
arrangement is quite use-specific, albeit very common.  Our big 
computations do not do a lot of input / output once the initial data has 
been read from disk and distributed to the compute node's memory.  Our 
cluster is configured for high performance parallel computing, I suppose 
a cluster which is built for a web-server farm would have a requirement 
for much faster i/o on all compute nodes.  That's getting outside my 
area of expertise so I will go no further.

> These are some of the issues annoying me. Pls forgive me if I am a 
> little boring and I will be glad if someone can really guide me.
There's a lot of information about all this out there.  I like the book 
'Beowulf Cluster Computing with Linux' as a good survey of many / most 
aspects of cluster computing but there are plenty of others available. 
Then there's google ...

Hope some of this is useful


> Cheers,
> Richard
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Mark Westwood
Parallel Programmer
The Technology Centre
Offshore Technology Park
Claymore Drive
AB23 8GD
United Kingdom

+44 (0)870 429 6586

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