[Beowulf] adding a cluster to a traditional supercomputer

Florent Calvayrac florent.calvayrac at univ-lemans.fr
Thu Feb 9 07:48:10 PST 2006

Dear list,

Some colleagues have at last decided to give up the upgrading of their
traditional shared-memory supercomputer, which I have always  found a
waste of money with its 32 cores which gives it less power
than our 100+ cluster for 6 times the price.  I find that traditional 
big iron is only
 justified above 128  or 256 processors where the excellent memory coupling
gives an advantage on certain codes, and only if it is not shared among 
n+1 users.
(so the science has to be good...)
Anyway, those colleagues now want to spend some money on a cluster and 
are new to the field.
They wish  to keep their current setup (excellent AC, UPS, dust 
and above all  their very good file system on the front node of their
"old" 32-way SMP which comes with a cluster file system,
SAN storage with fiberchannel,. etc

They want to go for a bunch (depending on final budget)
of racked Myrinet or Infiniband connected 4-way Opteron dual core nodes 
users need OpenMP on 8 cores), but
the question is open for the filesystem ;  should they rely on NFS over
Gigabit ethernet and attack their "old" fileserver (which is excellent),
with some fears for some heavy I/O codes, add fiberchannel ports to
some (or all) nodes on which the I/O bound codes would be dispatched with
a good PBS setup (best solution but expensive), or add another, 
dedicated NFS server with
several gigabit ethernet cards, each for serving only parts of the new 
this "new" fileserver itself getting its files via CFS, fiberchannel, or 
even NFS
from the "old" fileserver ?

They invited me to the discussion, but having not much practice on I/O bound
code, I could not really answer to those questions.

Any comments, suggestions, ideas ?

thanks in advance

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