[Beowulf] Which distro for the cluster?

Vaclav Hanzl hanzl at noel.feld.cvut.cz
Thu Dec 28 12:24:26 PST 2006

> ...So I thought about building the HPC nodes (8+1 master) with Gentoo ....
> But then it comes the administration and maintenance burden, which for me it
> should be the less, since my main task here is research ... so browsing the
> net I found Rocks...

Years ago, I installed a small cluster of ten 200MHz PPro
machines. Cluster distributions were dream of the future that time.

I still keep the cluster at that size, replacing parts of it as
funding allows - the size is quite right for the research we do.

I've been through most types of installation adventures this list
might suggest you - and in the retrospective, I am surprised how
little help of those wonderful clustering tools (which emerged exactly
as our dreams predicted) I was able to enjoy.

With this size of cluster and this type of funding, I spent by far the
biggest part of cluster maintenance by selecting the right new
hardware every year and making sure that linux kernel has right
drivers for it (network, hd controllers).

Finally, the thing which helps me most is - surprise - Knoppix, which
is better than me at supporting new hardware :-) (well, I could do it
better than Knoppix auto-detection if I devoted more time to it, but
no, I do not want to, there were already enough kernel compiles in my
life). I can give a CD to my (most collaborative) hardware vendor and
he can pre-select hardware for me. I install it to harddisks using my
own simple scripts (via USB stick) and I am quite happy with the
result. Even closer match to my package selection needs is
ParallelKnoppix (which can also be used to create volatile cluster - I
do not use this option but it might be nice to play with). The little
rest can be added via apt-get.

I just had to mention my experience as it seems to be so different
from experience of people who care about bigger clusters and can
devote bigger share of their human time to cluster maintenance...

Best Regards

Vaclav Hanzl

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