A beowulf for parallel instruction.

Walter B. Ligon III walt at parl.ces.clemson.edu
Wed Nov 1 09:53:03 PST 2000



I think this is a great idea - and I would suggest that you seriously consider
the new Scyld Beowulf software as a platform.  I have found that building
parallel programs based on a data-parallel SPMD style works very will with
this configuration and it is quite practical to teach a number of the classic
parallel algorithms this way.

I make a point of this because I find that once programmer start down a path,
it forever dominates their destiny (wait, maybe they was something else ...)
so if you are TEACHING parallel computing, it makes a lot of sense to teach
a clean and well structured style.  Unfortunately the past has been full of
various systems-on-systems and master/slave setups and things that easily
confuse the issues in parallel computing.  I have found that a very simple
and clean implementation based on N identical copies of a program operating
as peers allows students to focus on parallel computing.  Later there is time
to learn to spawn tasks and set up signal handlers and do more sophisticated

We recently constructed a cluster with 5 nodes (one front end and 4 compute
nodes) with Celerons for under $4000.  This makes an excellent system for
students to develop their first parallel codes on.


> We are planning to provide a vehicle for instruction in
> parallel computing. Given this rather vague objective,
> what influence might this have on the selection of
> hardware and software? The selection of non-bleeding
> edge components is one obvious issue but there must be
> others.  Although this is slightly off-topic I'd
> greatly appreciate comments from those who are running
> machines that may cater to this area as part of their
> workloads.
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Dr. Walter B. Ligon III
Associate Professor
ECE Department
Clemson University

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