[Beowulf] File server dual opteron suggestions?

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Thu Aug 3 18:45:03 PDT 2006

Hi Dave:

David Mathog wrote:
> There are 12 dual opteron server class motherboards just on Tyan's
> site, not counting minor variants, plus some from SuperMicro, Sun,
> and etc.  Half a dozen chipsets are used on these boards.  Too
> much choice and very little time  - I have to buy something early
> next week and just started looking today.  So please pipe up if you
> have a dual opteron motherboard and/or server that you're happy
> with and that has been reliable as a file server/head node.
> We'll probably go with midrange Ultra320 SCSI internal disks again
> (10K 74Gb drives from Maxtor or Seagate) since the high end SATA
> drives cost nearly as much for the same capacity.  For this particular

Hmmm.... I would argue that 7200 RPM disks make more sense for a number 
of reasons.

> cluster huge amounts of disk space are not required, and I suppose
> if we ever need it we could stuff in a couple of 500Gb SATA drives.
> (At which point the DLT320 would have to be replaced too.)

If you are looking for IO speed, nothing beats more spindles.

> General specs for this server are:
> dual opteron (around 246, speed isn't critical, dual core per socket
>    not required)

Might look at 242's then

> socket 940   (or is that a mistake these days?)

Not really.  Socket F stuff is on pricewatch and other places.

> 512M-1Gb ECC memory per socket (enough for a file server, no
>    serious computing on this node.)

I would recommend upping the memory.  Computing or not, large buffer 
caches on file servers are with very rare exception, a preferred config.

2Gb/socket minimum.  Nothing serves files faster than having them 
already sitting in ram.

> 4 x 74 Gb disks Ultra320 (or make an argument for a particular SATA)

Let me be the first to argue that you are about to waste obscene amounts 
of money on this.  If you really feel more comfortable with SCSI, get 
SAS.  Otherwise go SATA (Seagate 7200.10 SATA 300/NCQ NL units).  SAS is 
still somewhat of a waste if you are not using its advanced features, 
but if you get a nice LSI SAS controller card, it can also talk SATA.

> dual 10/100/1000 ethernet on the mobo

Careful on this... we and our customers have been badly bitten by tg3 
and broadcom NICs.  If the MB doesn't have Intel NICs, get an Intel 
1000/MT dual gigabit card.  You won't regret that, and it is money well 

> at least 1 serial port (2 ideally, since the UPS is controlled through
>    one port.  I suppose we could add a USB->serial port converter,
>    or a serial port card if this is a problem.)

I would get a multiport serial card for that, most MB have a single 
serial, so if you want to do serial console, you need another method for 
the UPS.  If they ups talks USB you are in OK shape, otherwise get the 
ports on a PCI card.

> Dual Ultra320 controller on board or on a card, one channel brought
>    out to the rear of the case for backup.

If you are going to tie this to an existing SCSI backup, try an LSIU320 
card or similar.  Lower cost, and fine for running backups.

> Graphics - whatever is on the motherboard, probably will only ever
>    be used to set up the BIOS and maybe for the OS install. 
> Disk storage slots >4, hot swap isn't required.
> CD/DVD - for OS install diagnostics only
> floppy - probably not
> case - 2U (big enough for adequate ventilation, right?)

Yeah, just make sure you have good airflow.

> Thanks,    
> David Mathog
> mathog at caltech.edu
> Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech
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Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423
fax  : +1 734 786 8452
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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