[Beowulf] clustering using off the shelf systems in a fish tank full of oil.

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Wed Dec 28 10:42:56 PST 2011

An SSD wouldn't be a problem. No spinning disks in air, etc.

And, in general, I'd work real hard to find a better cooling solution than
oil immersion.  It's a mess.
 About 5-10 years ago on this list we had some discussions on this - I was
thinking about a portable cluster for use in the field by archaeologists,
so it had to be cheap.. No Defense Department weapons system scale budgets
in the social sciences.  And it also had to be rugged and work in wide
temperatures My "use case" was processing electrical resistance tomography
or ground penetrating radar (generically, iterative inversion) in Central
American jungle or Middle Eastern deserts.  (Where Indiana Jones goes, so
goes the Lux Field'wulf)

If I were building something that had to be sealed, and needed to get the
heat out to the outer surface (e.g. A minicluster in a box for a dusty
field environment) and I wanted to use inexpensive commodity components,
what I would think about is some scheme where you have a pump that sprays
an inert cooling liquid (one of the inexpensive Freons, I think.. Not
necessarily Fluorinert) over the boards.  Sort of like a "dry sump"
lubrication system in a racing engine.

But it would take some serious engineering.. And one might wonder whether
it would be easier and cheaper just to design for conduction cooling with
things like wedgelocks to hold the cards in (and provide a thermal path.
Or do something like package a small airconditioner with the cluster
(although my notional package is "checkable as luggage/carryable on back
of pack animal or backseat of car, so full sized rack is out of the

As a production item, I think the wedgelock/conduction cooled scheme might
be better (and I'd spend some time with some mobos looking at their
thermal properties.  A suitable "clamp" scheme for the edges might be
enough, along with existing heatpipe type technologies.

On 12/28/11 10:04 AM, "Jonathan Aquilina" <eagles051387 at gmail.com> wrote:

>On 12/28/2011 11:17 AM, Lux, Jim (337C) wrote:
>> I'm not sure I'd be plunging a disk drive into oil.  Most drive cases
>> seen have a vent plug.  Maybe the holes are small enough so that the oil
>> molecules don't make it through, but air does, but temperature cycling
>> going to force oil into the case eventually.
>Jim would you plunge an SSD in there? So you wouldnt advise using
>mineral oil like the video shows?

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