[Beowulf] noobs: what comes next?

Lux, James P james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Mon Jun 22 15:39:19 PDT 2009

> -----Original Message-----
> From: beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org 
> [mailto:beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org] On Behalf Of Douglas Eadline
> Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 2:40 PM
> To: Hearns, John
> Cc: beowulf at beowulf.org
> Subject: RE: [Beowulf] noobs: what comes next?
> If you want to build a small cheap usable cluster check this out.
>   http://limulus.basement-supercomputing.com/
> The project is moving a little slow, but that is because I 
> have been working on packaging everything (16 cores using 
> quads) in one case with one power supply.
> (more on the project page)
> Some software announcements will be forthcoming as well.
> Actually, I think of it as more of a parallel workstation 
> than a production cluster.
> --
> Doug

Very interesting.
Similar to the speculative(never implemented) "can you build a cluster from parts bought only from Wal-Mart?"

As far as Jeff wanting it to fit under an airplane seat.  Over the years, I've given some thought to that, and of course, some folks have done it (clusters in a toolbox/lunchbox etc.. Usually using Via MiniITX mobos of one sort or another.. They're out there on the web).  Clusters, it's true, but realistically, peformance that is not as good as a single laptop with a much faster processor.

I think, though, that what Jeff wants is some significant improvement in computational horsepower over, say, a laptop.  I'd propose that you want, say, 10 times the crunch of a laptop of comparable generation(otherwise, it's not worth doing.. If you picked a factor of 2-4, you could also just wait a year, and the laptop would have the power, at much less complexity).  The 100W idle, 1kW full bore is a good place to be power wise.  Heck, I just got one of those instant espresso making machines for Fathers Day, and it draws 1200W, so clearly that's a reasonable short term power draw for a "home appliance".  

And, as you've outlined in Limulus, an architectural approach that lends itself to scaling or rebuilding with new hardware as it becomes available would be nice.  

Personally, I'd love it if it ran basically headless, and I used a regular small notebook/laptop computer as the "control/user interface"  I'm going to be carrying the notebook anyway, so might as well use it.  Wireless networking over short distances would work fine.  Hmm, can my Macbook Air be a DHCP server so it can boot with PXE?  I suppose so.

Sheetmetal work is going to be the key.  The networking, hardware, and software is pretty rack and stack of commodity stuff, for the most part (granted, it's non trivial to make a turnkey system..)

James Lux, P.E.
Task Manager, SOMD Software Defined Radios
Flight Communications Systems Section 
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Drive, Mail Stop 161-213
Pasadena, CA, 91109
+1(818)354-2075 phone
+1(818)393-6875 fax 


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