firstly let me apologise for cc'ing to many people who posted on Beowulf/Clustering
on the ILUG list in the past few months.
A group of us are interested in developing the use of Linux Clustering in research
and other institutions in Ireland. We are comprised of a number of students in UCG
and some members of the Galway Linux community, EGLU ( http://www.excentric.com/eglu ).
We have seen the success of many Beowulf and clustering projects worldwide and, while
we have heard of similar projects in Ireland, we believe that there is little awareness
of the results of these endeavours.
Within large numbers of educational institutions in Ireland, many of which now have
multi-boot PC labs, many departments are becoming interested in the idea of harnessing
some of the wasted computational power of these labs for research projects. We believe
that an attempt to ease the transition from a state where departments have multi-boot
computers and a curiosity about clustering, towards running parallel software applications
on Network of Workstations (NOWs) would be very welcome.
John Mc Donald ( Maynooth ) highlighted that, while they have built a Super Computer at night (SCAN) running on a general purpose NOW, they would find the move towards a 24 7 system would
be restricted, by limited resources, site policies etc.
This scenario is very common in such institutions and we would be interested to hear of any
Beowulf/NOW projects which are operating in this night-time only mode. In our own case our goal
is to automate the setup of Beowulf clients on a number of general purpose LANs. A typical case
would be 20 PII 266's with dual-boot NT Beta and Redhat Linux with a 100 Mbps ethernet. These LANs would operate as NT workstations during the day and as a NOW/Beowulf at night. Initially
running MPI Image Processing applications which are currently being run on 2 DEC Dual Alphas with Memory Channel.
An ILUG post last year mentioned a Dell sponsored 1 week 'Proof of Concept' lab where people could investigate various Beowulf configurations and carry out benchmarking of various networking topologies/technologies. Ingredients mentioned were :
>Pentium III Xeon dual processor systems
> Pentium III Xeon quad processor systems
> in total well over 150 systems
> Gigabit ethernet
Have any results on this lab been published in Ireland, or similar trials?
With the impressive performance/price of these configurations, there would most likely
be a move towards dedicated 24 7 Beowulf configurations (from trials with NOWs). We would
be interested to hear of some of the Irish research projects being run on such systems and learn
if there is any case of multiple and diverse research applications being run on a single Beowulf,
the topology/design and performance implications of this.
Following on from a post from Colm Buckley, we looked at research being done by Brian Coghlan in TCD Computer Science ( http://www.cs.tcd.ie//research_groups/cag/ ) investigating the performance of SCI (Scalable Coherent Interface) compared to ethernet systems currently being used in Clusters. Do people who have built their systems from commodity hardware believe that a move towards using much higher performance and expensive equipment is likely and do the benchmarking results justify this extra expenditure?
Finally, we would like to hear about Beowulf/Clustering projects operational in Ireland at
the moment and particularly would like to hear from people who are considering testing such systems and who would like to receive some help in making this endeavour as easy as and successful as possible.
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