[Beowulf] Newbie Question: Racks versus boxes and good rack solutions for commodity hardware

Dmitri Chubarov dmitri.chubarov at gmail.com
Fri Dec 12 09:47:23 PST 2008


my first reply missed the list by mistake so I will repeat a few points that
I mentioned there.

> What is 1u?
> What is a blade system?

Compute clusters are often built of rack-server hardware meaning boxes
different from desktop boxes and chipset that have features not necessary
for desktop PCs like ECC memory, redundant power supply units, integrated
management processors, RAID controllers, that altogether provide better
reliability, since the failure rate for a cluster of a 100 nodes is 100
times higher than for a single node. You may not need any of it for a 16
node rendering farm.

Anyone using clusters for animation on this list?

We are just writing up on a research project on distributed rendering.
Rendering is the part in the animation process that requires the most
processing power. We used 3dStudio Max (3DS) for modelling and V-Ray for
rendering. 3DS has its own utility, called Backburner, for distributing
frames among a number of  cluster nodes.

We observed that V-Ray failed on some certain frames thus stopping the whole
rendering queue, therefore the process was not completely automated.

I would also repeat that a storage subsystem that uses an array of disks is
essential for performance.

> At this time I am trying to figure out the racks. Am meeting the hardware
> guy on Saturday and we were thinking of opening up the PCS i have lying
> around and taking measurements of how the mother boards fit into the
> cases,with the intention of creating a rack from scratch. Any ideas of what
> goes into a good rack in terms of size and matieral (assuming it has to be
> insulated)

This sort of rack is more of a research project. On the contrary, the usual
kind of rack is an IEC standard server rack,

> Am planning to run animation software (like blender) on it. Since animation
> software requires large processing power i am assuming they have already
> worked on parrallelizing the code...

Blender does not seem to have a driver to distribute rendering (I might be
wrong) but it can generate PovRay scripts and povray can make use of
parallel processing in a number of ways.
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