[Beowulf] Which distro for the cluster?

John Hearns john.hearns at streamline-computing.com
Fri Dec 29 01:50:45 PST 2006

Chetoo Valux wrote:
> But then it comes the administration and maintenance burden, which for 
> me it
> should be the less, since my main task here is research ... so browsing the
> net I found Rocks Linux with plenty of clustering docs and administration
> tools & guidelines. I feel this should be the choice in my case, even if I
> sacrifice some computation efficiency.

You are thinking well here.
Choose a 'mainstream' distro - Rocks, Redhat based distro (Scientific 
Linux?) or SuSE.
An HPC cluster exists to run applications - you should look at the 
applications and which distro they will run under, and which are supported.
By this I mean - are your applications written in-house? If so, ask your 
users which compilers and libraries they need.
If you run commercial codes, you need to find out which distros are 
supported. Again, usually SuSE or Redhat.
So, being a little harsh at this time of year, Gentoo is unlikely to be 
your first choice in terms of getting support.

Also "sacrificing computational efficiency" is a red herring.
In HPC, there is a very unusual work pattern on machines - which I think 
people who think only in terms of web servers, general use machines etc. 
are caught out by.
IF you get your HPC cluster right - and you should try to as they cost 
$$$$, then 99% of CPU time is spent in applications.
You should then substitute "Gentoo for efficiency" by "Which compiler 
for efficiency".
Get your applications together, and download the one-month trial 
versions of Pathscale, Portland and Intel. And try them out.

      John Hearns
      Senior HPC Engineer
      Streamline Computing,
      The Innovation Centre, Warwick Technology Park,
      Gallows Hill, Warwick CV34 6UW
      Office: 01926 623130 Mobile: 07841 231235

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