[Beowulf] hardware question: building a cluster node/ student workstation

Nathan Moore ntmoore at gmail.com
Tue Jul 24 19:25:29 PDT 2007

About a year ago I put together a small cluster of linux workstations for
students in our department.  At the time, I was conservative with spending
money and outfitted each node with something like:

Scientific Linux (RHEL 4)
AMD 4400+ x2 Athlon 64 (dual core, 2MB L2)
Abit nf-95 motherboard (cheapest socket 939 board at the time)
2GB RAM, DDR 400
200GB SATA hard drive
integrated graphics, sound, 10/100 LAN

The machines ran with NIS logins, NFS shared home directories, MPICH, an
apache-hosted wiki, etc.  For the purpose of student work the hardware setup
seemed appropriate.

Earlier this summer, the case fan on one of the machines failed, and the
result seems like a cooked motherboard (erratic errors with the integrated
NIC).  The question I'm asking the list is the following:  In a university
setting I can't just ebay off the old parts and buy a new node.  Thus I'm
limited presently to looking for a motherboard with AMD's socket 939 and a
few SATA2 ports - everything else is up for grabs.  Is it worth my time (and
funds) to buy a motherboard in the $200 range (ie something like a tyan
s2866g3nr), or should I again go with the cheapest thing there is (something
like an Asus a8v-xe in the $50 range).

I don't really understand the distinction between these two groups of
hardware.  The tyan is probably a bad example because it has 3 network
ports, but aside from this, they seem like basically the same board.  I'd
appreciate advice on putting together a decent machine.


Nathan Moore

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Nathan Moore
Assistant Professor, Physics
Winona State University
AIM: nmoorewsu
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