[Beowulf] Practicality of a Beowulf Cluster

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Thu Aug 27 14:57:18 PDT 2009

J Bickhard wrote:
> So, I was thinking of making a cluster, but wondered: what are the
> practical uses of one? I mean, you can't exactly run Windows on these
> things, and it looks like they're mostly for parallel computing of
> complex algorithms.

Technically you can run windows on it, though this raises additional 
questions, which are better served answered elsewhere.

> Would an average Joe like me have a use for a cluster?

That is the important question, but the answer is a function of what you 
need to do in a computational sense.  If you are cranking on excel 
spreadsheets all day long, yeah, chances are, a cluster doesn't make 
sense.  If you are performing very detailed and time sensitive 
calculations that require hundreds of billions of operations to arrive 
at an answer, that is more likely the domain of something cluster-like.

The real answer is "it depends" and in most cases, the "average Joe" (or 
<Joe> :) ) probably doesn't need one.  Going forward, many average Joe's 
workloads will likely be handled on local accelerators such as GPU or 
similar systems.

Clusters provide massively increased processor cycle density per unit 
time.  If this is what your application needs, then by all means, look 
into clusters.

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Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics, Inc.
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
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