[Beowulf] Please help to setup Beowulf

Geoff Jacobs gdjacobs at gmail.com
Tue Feb 17 06:10:20 PST 2009

Mike Davis wrote:
> Geoff Jacobs wrote:
>> Why do you say this? Debian (5.0, what I checked just now) includes all
>> the basic Beowulf elements and even tosses in GROMACS pre-compiled for
>> OpenMPI. If it's what his people are used to there's no reason to switch.
> I don't know about RGB, but I would argue that you let your applications
> lead you to OS choice because they are the whole point. If your apps
> won't  (or won't readily ) run on your OS, you need a different OS.

Absolutely, your ISV requirements are ultimately your primary consideration.

> In my case I primarily run CentOS because it provides support for a
> number of apps that are pre-built for RedHat and has the tools I need to
> build new apps. I tried Ubuntu on a small cluster that I was helping a
> Quantum Chemist setup and found nothing but frustration. Due to the slow
> internet connection at his home, any update was painfully slow.The base
> install lacked compilers but had oh so much multimedia support. I hoped
> that the install could be customized in a manner similar to using
> kickstart (which I've been using since 1995 or so), but I couldn't find
> that capability in the documentation.

Ubuntu (vanilla) is a desktop distribution and therefore makes certain
assumptions inappropriate for a base for Beowulf. I'm not sure about
Ubuntu Server, but certainly Debian allows very fine grain tuning on
what packages to include and works much better.

For Debian mass installs, a good starting point is FAI, but there are
other options.

> All of his work and the various programs that interested him required
> fortran which was still another update. After several evenings of
> searching and trying to setup proxy servers for updates to nodes. I
> switched the entire cluster (4 nodes) to CentOS and had his primary
> application (GAMESS) running in a few minutes compiled for both serial
> and ddi sockets.

GFortran (F95) is included in the latest release of Debian. I haven't
built GAMESS myself, though, so there might be some peculiarities in
their build process.

It sounds like downloading the DVD archives for ex. Debian on a wider
pipe then using those to install at your friends place would have been
faster. CentOS was installed off DVD, yeah?

> In short, the applications are the whole point of a working cluster. If
> an OS will not readily support the apps, you need a new OS.
> Mike

Once again, I will reiterate that if there is no compelling reason to
move from one distro to another, don't move (unless you're willing to
devote some time to adjust).

Certainly applications requiring a unique distro would constitute a
compelling reason.

Geoffrey D. Jacobs

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