[Beowulf] FreeBSD 6.1 and single system image

Glen Gardner vze24qhw at verizon.net
Fri Jul 14 15:25:38 PDT 2006

I've recently installed FreeBSD 6.1 on a 12 node diskless cluster.

I've got a couple of observations to share for those who might be

I've installed it such that all of the compute nodes boot from the same
system image as the boot server (also the head node). It works
flawlessly and is the easiest pxeboot setup I have ever done.

It boots the default FreeBSD kernel (generic) with no changes, and there
was nothing to do to configure pxeboot other than creating a directory
with pxebot in it...(aside from setting up dhcp).

I'm a bit impressed with it, as I had been experimenting with Fedora
Core 5 along the same lines. I abandoned core 5 after spending
considerable time wrestling with half-broken tools meant to configure a
diskless system, only to discover that the initrd fabricated by these
tools was not working correctly. After working around that problem I
discovered the kernel was not working correctly with my hardware, and
had to resort to an older kernel which still needed additional work.
At that point I stopped working with it in disgust.

I don't mind doing a little work, but RedHat needs to get its act
together on their low level tools and documentation.

Conversely, the FreeBSD installation worked exactly as advertised. I was
surprised at how simple it was to setup as compared to Fedora.

The remarkable thing I notice about the FreeBSD setup is that with all
nodes booting the same image (including the head node), system
maintenance is really simple. It also makes me think that a single
system image using freeware operating systems is a worthy and practical
goal with FreeBSD, but that Fedora Core is not even close to being an
out of the box solution for anything but a workstation.


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