[Beowulf] Live Implementation for Clusters

Ellis Wilson xclski at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 12 20:07:40 PDT 2008

Hi all,

I've been working lately developing a LiveCD/LiveUSB
which will 
dynamically bring up a cluster for a few professors at
my university. 
Their issue is that this (LaSalle U.) being largely a
business and 
liberal arts university, all their funds go towards
instruments not 
geared towards computers (or really research in
general, this is largely 
a "teaching" school).  However, a few are really into
research in 
Chemistry (specifically using ORCA, Gaussian is too
expensive and 
actually doesn't do what they need).  They've run
their tasks in the 
past for weeks at a time on their home computers or
old computers turned 
over by the school following student use.  I asked,
why not use the 
computers for the students when they can't use them?

This sparked my LiveCD endeavor.  Now, granted, using
gigabit ethernet 
is a huge drawback (and again, money is the real
issue, so I can't buy a 
switch and install nice NICs into the computers for my
own use in those 
off hours), but the task at hand won't even allow
propagation beyond 12 
computers (hard coded limitation in ORCA).  Therefore,
our speedup is 
somewhat CPU bound (at night, obviously a
non-dedicated switch during 
the day would create really terrible problems since
students are mucking 
around on it simultaneously).

I'd like to hear concerns/comments from the community
on this.  For 
reference I've built the CD based on a slightly
stripped down Gentoo, 
but kept it fairly run of the mill so I can use it for
some other 
applications afterwards by simply unmerging the
chemistry applications 
and reburning it with my new configuration.  MPI 1.27
is utilized 
because ORCA (again very picky and unfortunately
closed source) requires 
it.  I've got a small folder of scripts that create
the computer as a 
Node or Master with more or less one command.  Oh, and
no, IT here is 
really, really bad and super Windows friendly. 
There's no way they'd 
let me install onto another partition.

Feel free to rip away, I know its not a perfect
solution, but I'm not 
sure under the heavy money circumstances a better one
exists (please 
prove me wrong!).


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