[Beowulf] Building a new cluster - seeking some advice

Thomas Carroll tcarroll at ursinus.edu
Fri Dec 21 07:06:14 PST 2007

  I'm new to this list but not entirely new to building clusters.  I've
participated in setting up two clusters in the past, but I'm about to
build my own and would like some advice before I start.  I've searched
through the archives, and there's a ton of great information.  Still, I
thought I'd throw out my specific questions/info.  Sorry in advance for
the long email.

1. I'd like to go diskless.  I've never done this before (the other two
clusters are...diskful?).  I've used Fedora on both of the previous
clusters.  Is this a good choice for diskless?  Any advice on where to
start with diskless or operating system choices?

2. Given my budget (about 20K), I plan on going with GigE on about 24
nodes.  Am I right in thinking that faster network interconnects are
just too expensive for this budget?

3. I'll be spending most of my cluster's time diagonalizing large
matrices.  I plan on using ScaLAPACK eventually; currently I just use
LAPACK/ATLAS and do individual matrices on each node.  The only thing
parallel about my code right now is using the nodes for monte carlo.
This is what I'm looking at right now for my compute nodes:
	* Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 Conroe 3.0GHz ($280)
	* 8 GB (4 X 2 GB) DDR2 800 (~$200)
	* Case/PSU combo ($60)
	* ATX motherboard w/GigE (~$100)
This comes out to about 17k for 24 nodes + spare parts + hard drives for
the head node.  I've already purchased the switch and cables and have
more than adequate cooling and shelving for the room.

  The motherboard does NOT have integrated video.  Will I need video
output?  Can you even build a node without it?  Problem is, the
motherboards with adequate support for 8GB memory and 1333 FSB don't
have video.  I could spend $10-20 per node for a video card, but that
seems like a waste.  From reading around, it seems like there is no
advantage really to DDR3 memory...is that right?  Any advice on the
video issue or my potential parts list would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much for any advice.  Feel free to offer unsolicited advice as
well :).  And I hope everyone has, or has already had, a good holiday!


        Prof. Thomas Carroll   (610) 409-3000 ext. 2121
        Ursinus College Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
        Pfahler 101K            tcarroll at ursinus.edu

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