[Beowulf] cluster building for teaching (on the cheap)

Eric Shook eric-shook at uiowa.edu
Mon Aug 28 07:05:49 PDT 2006

I would suggest looking at the LittleFe project.


For ~$2,500 you can purchase 8 small boards in a case that is less than 
50 lbs and can be checked as luggage at an airport.  Of course if you 
had $5,000 you could easily double the capacity of the LittleFe cluster 
by purchasing two.  The benefit of the LittleFe project is that it is 
designed with Computational Science in mind. (i.e. Computational 
Physics) I'm positive the coordinators of the project would be happy to 
work with you on curriculum modules for the cluster as well.  They might 
even have some curriculum modules for your physics class already in 
their collection.

If you would like more information or would like to discuss this further 
please let me know.

Eric Shook

Disclaimer: I am also a part of the LittleFe project.

Eric Shook
Grid Analyst and Operation Specialist
Grid Research and educatiOn group @ IoWa (GROW)
Academic Technologies - Research Services
The University of Iowa
128F LC S
Iowa City, IA 52242
(319) 335-6714

Nathan Moore wrote:
> I'm planning to put together a cluster at my institution to serve a 
> computational physics class and also to use for parallel code 
> development and small-scale research.  My local land-grant university 
> has plenty of horsepower available, so my primary goal is to set up a 
> modest cluster that will "feel" like a big beowulf, and will allow my 
> students to learn the basics of parallel programming (with MPI - the 
> more execution threads the better).  Additionally, the system needs to 
> be cheap (less than $5k).
> After about 4 hours of diffusing around the web it has become clear to 
> me that most (all?) commercial solutions are too expensive and I should 
> try to put something together myself.  In browsing NewEgg last night one 
> interesting solution was to set up 2  dual processor, dual core machines 
> (ie 2 motherboards, 4 AMD 1.8GHz Opteron 265's, 8 total execution 
> cores).  Spec'ed out (1GB Ram per core, P-ATA hard drives), this looks 
> like about $500 per execution core.
> I've never done this before and I'd appreciate your collective input:
> (1) Does Linux/MPICH/gcc/g95 work pretty well with dual core opteron 
> processors?
> (2) Am I better off buying 8 of the cheapest Dells I can find and 
> networking those together?
> (2.5) Do you pay a premium for a 1-u or 2-u enclosure?
> (3) In general (processor type, peripherals held constant), is it 
> cheaper to buy 2x standard processor boxes, 1 dual processor box, or 
> half of a dual processor, dual core box?
> Other thoughts are welcome.
> regards,
> Nathan Moore
> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
> Nathan Moore
> Physics
> Winona State University
> AIM:nmoorewsu
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