[Beowulf] A couple of interesting comments

Matt Allen malallen at indiana.edu
Fri Jun 6 11:10:43 PDT 2008

Hash: SHA1

 > cool tricks to consistently set the BIOS

We had a cluster of systems that supported configuring the BIOS from  
an image on a bootable floppy.  I bought 96 3.5" floppy disks, put one  
in each node, and then used parallel scp to dd the desired image to  
each node's floppy from an NFS mount.  Then I power-cycled them  
simultaneously, and listened to the sound of 96 floppy disks being  
read at the same time (more or less).  I'm sure I'll never hear that  
sound again in my life.

I'm not sure how relevant or cool that was (and it did take a few  
minutes to eject all those disks afterwards), but it took less time  
than rebooting each node, for sure, and I had a desk full of spare  
floppy disks for two or three years after that.


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On Jun 6, 2008, at 1:45 PM, Perry E. Metzger wrote:

> Bill Broadley <bill at cse.ucdavis.edu> writes:
>>> 2.  BIOS had a couple of interesting defaults, including warn on
>>> keyboard error (Keyboard?  Not intentionally.  This is a compute
>>> node, and should never require a keyboard.  Ever.)  We also find the
>>> BIOS is set to boot from hard disk THEN PXE. But due to item 1,
>>> above, we never can fail over to PXE unless we load up a keyboard
>>> and monitor, and hit F12 to drop to PXE.
>> Very strange standard for a server, let alone a cluster node.
> I would be less disturbed about such things if it was trivial to alter
> the BIOS settings in a semi-automated way -- say by booting some
> standalone program, or loading a file from a USB thumb drive. Then you
> could just go up to each box with a USB thumb drive, turn it on, and
> have it fix itself in a consistent way. However, the fact that you
> can't generally automate fixing BIOS settings makes all of this far
> more annoying.
> Anyone have any cool tricks for how to consistently set the BIOS on
> large numbers of boxes without requiring steps that humans can screw
> up easily?
> -- 
> Perry E. Metzger		perry at piermont.com
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