[Beowulf] Windows Master, Linux Slaves

Mark Hahn hahn at mcmaster.ca
Sun Mar 7 12:05:52 PST 2010

> I'm not sure at all if this would be at all beowulfy, or even if it would
>be possible. That's why I'm asking you. What I want to set up is a cluster
>computer that can run standard windows applications. Random download games,
>Microsoft office, etc. So I was wondering, is it at all possible to run a
>windows master computer that's controlling Linux slaves, and if I did, would
>it improve the performance of usual applications (or make it possible to run
>more of them at the same time). I know this isn't the most useful or the
>cheapest way to make a computer like this, but it's kind of an experiment.

beowulf is mainly about leveraging (commodity hardware, open software),
but it's not explicitly _anti_ windows.  the problem here is that to gain
an advantage from parallelism (shared or distributed memory), an app 
almost certainly needs to be parallelism-aware, indeed, _designed_ for it.

if you wanted to run a bunch of non-interacting windows programs,
and wanted to distribute them across cluster nodes (with, for instance,
a shared filesystem), this could certainly be done.  personally, I'd 
start out with a linux cluster and run VMs so that the whole would be 
managable and secure.  each windows instance would see itself alone in
the VM, of course (separte desktops, registries, etc)  as far as I know, 
MSFT will want their pound of flesh for each instance, though.

in general, there are easy hardware fixes to speed up your programs.
SSDs, lots of ram, 4-socket, 48-core motherboards, etc.  even things like
software-based shared memory single-image systems like ScaleMP.
they cost money, but so does person-time.

the main thing about beowulf is that there's a LOT of programs already
written for MPI clusters, so the task is "just" tuning (for some combination
of performance, greenness, price, convenience, etc).

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