[Beowulf] What's the category of Beowulf among Clusters?

Lux, James P james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Fri Dec 19 12:26:33 PST 2008

On 12/19/08 11:50 AM, "Robert G. Brown" <rgb at phy.duke.edu> wrote:

> On Fri, 19 Dec 2008, Lux, James P wrote:
>> Beowulf -> the definition evolves.. But.. I'd say it's a bunch of
>> interconnected commodity computers intended to form a single computational
>> resource. Some would add "running open source software" Commodity is
> Some would, and it absolutely is in the original definition and perhaps
> even worth fighting for, or about.  Not necessarily ONLY open source
> software, but the operating system should be open source if nothing
> else.

I agree philosophically, but one has to wonder if open source OS is an
essential part of beowulf-ness, or just happened to be an enabling aspect
(partly because Don B. was cranking out drivers for Linux.. Another enabling
aspect).  That is, beowulfs wouldn't have existed without open source OS,
but neither would they have existed without cheap commodity PCs, which are
hardly open source.  And I think the real enabler was the realization that
you could use the proverbial "pile o' PCs" to do real work.

>> important. It's not special purpose hardware, but leverages the economies of
>> scale to minimize cost.  Bunch of interconnected is important.(no vector
>> processors).  Single computational resource -> you can devote the entire
> No SINGLE vector processors.  A cluster of systems containing vector
> processors is just fine...;-)

Is a group of vector processors a matrix processor (or tensor processor,
depending on the rank?)?  Or isn't it just a bigger vector processor?

I think parallelism, in some sense (even if EP) is an essential part of
beowulfness.  As is "potentially single task-ness"..

But I still wonder about the prevalence of clusters in Geatland. I'm
rereading the historical document now, and I find mentions of halls of
warriors (hmm. Parallelism, commodity, open source, all potentially working
on a single task.. But that puts our man Beowulf really functioning as the
head node, and nobody refers to the army as Beowulf.  Finally, when it comes
to really useful stuff (slaying of Grendel, etc.), B does it himself)  Maybe
the clustering stuff is in that digression in the middle of the wedding,
which I always skip over.

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