[Beowulf] cluster building for teaching (on the cheap)
nmoore at winona.edu
Sat Aug 26 10:47:29 PDT 2006
I'm planning to put together a cluster at my institution to serve a
computational physics class and also to use for parallel code
development and small-scale research. My local land-grant university
has plenty of horsepower available, so my primary goal is to set up a
modest cluster that will "feel" like a big beowulf, and will allow my
students to learn the basics of parallel programming (with MPI - the
more execution threads the better). Additionally, the system needs
to be cheap (less than $5k).
After about 4 hours of diffusing around the web it has become clear
to me that most (all?) commercial solutions are too expensive and I
should try to put something together myself. In browsing NewEgg last
night one interesting solution was to set up 2 dual processor, dual
core machines (ie 2 motherboards, 4 AMD 1.8GHz Opteron 265's, 8 total
execution cores). Spec'ed out (1GB Ram per core, P-ATA hard drives),
this looks like about $500 per execution core.
I've never done this before and I'd appreciate your collective input:
(1) Does Linux/MPICH/gcc/g95 work pretty well with dual core opteron
(2) Am I better off buying 8 of the cheapest Dells I can find and
networking those together?
(2.5) Do you pay a premium for a 1-u or 2-u enclosure?
(3) In general (processor type, peripherals held constant), is it
cheaper to buy 2x standard processor boxes, 1 dual processor box, or
half of a dual processor, dual core box?
Other thoughts are welcome.
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Winona State University
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