[Beowulf] What now?

Mark Hahn hahn at physics.mcmaster.ca
Wed Aug 18 05:43:12 PDT 2004

> I'm sorry to ask a question like this, but I'm seriously stuck. I'ver 
> installed MPI just because the idea of clustering excites me. But... 
> what now? What do all of you "veteran" Beowulf people do with yours? I 
> mean, are there GPL/etc packages, or code that anyone knows of? Mabye 

there are lots, but generally so specialized that they'd be of little
interest outside the field.  for instance, a number of my users run
a cosmo code called "Flash", but unless you're in the field, it's not 
going to be very rewarding to run.

> primes, anything. (I tried to write some small things, but it's going to 
> take me many more months before I can effectivly design an efficient 
> program to utilize MPI)

anyone with moderate serial programming skill should be able to pick up
MPI basics in a couple days.  I believe that MPI is daunting to beginners
mainly because it's such a fat interface, and people think that they need
to use one-sided comms, collectives, non-blocking stuff all in their first
program.  (C++ is quite similar - easy and safe if you don't bother with
the more fringe features.)

primes are a good one.  a mandelbrot set zoomer is fairly rewarding.
I was toying with writing a nice password cracker just this morning.
all are great examples of extremely data-parallel, loosely-coupled 
applications that should be easy to scale for a beginner.  mandelbrot
is kind of nice because it provides a segue into meshes and refinement.
note that there are tutorials freely available on the net that cover
some of these already...

another one would be a software-only, MPI-based parallel 3d renderer - 
that would even have lots of practical application (display walls,
avoiding giant cheques to SGI ;)

regards, mark hahn.

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