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Beowulf Cluster Uses

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February 13, 2013 11:24:51 PM

Hey guys! :hello:  This isn't exactly "business", but this is one of the few forum areas I have seen beowulf cluster discussion. Our school recently swapped out their dell optilex desktop computers with those small dummy computers that connect to a server. As part of the school's tech team, we salvaged about 6 of the computers to see if we could use them at all. At the moment we are starting work on getting a beowulf cluster up, but I just realized there isn't much we can do with that, since we mostly planned on using it as a server host for games like source and minecraft. Before everyone starts ranting that we would have to totally rewrite the programs to run parallel instead of sequential, yes, I understand that now. Cluster computing is a very obscure field in the consumer area, since I can barely find any good articles about it that were made in the past couple of years. My question is, without rewriting server architectures of all the games we play, is there a way to get a cluster of computers to run normal, sequential programs, mainly servers, that would utilize the combined RAM and processing power of these computers? Preferably without spending a fortune on connectors. We already have a way to link all of the computers up (ethernet switch). All we need now is a practical use for them instead of Folding@home. Thanks for your time!

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February 13, 2013 11:44:56 PM

Unfortunately, the simple answer is: No. Given the scale of the machine you have and the terrible cross-sectional BW, you would likely get a slow-down trying to parallelize something that isn't very compute intensive. If you have anything that requires a lot of task communication esp. over such a slow , high latency link you are going to be SOL.

You could run many instances of sequential programs on different nodes of your cluster tho ;) 

I would look at using the system as a learning machine -- especially for people interested in HPC. Parallel programming is very important. You could setup an MPI environment, and give people access to practice.

Not sure what level of school you are in, but if you get into HPC you could potentially attend some of the super computing conferences. They have some high-school teams that come every year and compete... I think last year was building a mini-cluster and trying to get a good speedup out of it.
February 13, 2013 11:49:01 PM

Hi :) 

Run SETI ...

All the best Brett :) 
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February 13, 2013 11:58:20 PM

onichikun said:
Unfortunately, the simple answer is: No. Given the scale of the machine you have and the terrible cross-sectional BW, you would likely get a slow-down trying to parallelize something that isn't very compute intensive. If you have anything that requires a lot of task communication esp. over such a slow , high latency link you are going to be SOL.

You could run many instances of sequential programs on different nodes of your cluster tho ;) 

I would look at using the system as a learning machine -- especially for people interested in HPC. Parallel programming is very important. You could setup an MPI environment, and give people access to practice.

Not sure what level of school you are in, but if you get into HPC you could potentially attend some of the super computing conferences. They have some high-school teams that come every year and compete... I think last year was building a mini-cluster and trying to get a good speedup out of it.


Hmmm that learning center gave me an idea... there is a possibility that we may start learning how to code. LTSP maybe? Or basically make a machine as a proof of concept that would look great on a college resume?
February 14, 2013 3:25:17 AM

Depending upon the computer hardware that you have in these Dell Optiplex towers, you might be able to do a LOT with an education or hands-on training lab. This could be a huge resource in you and your classmate's ability to get real experience trying out some computer concepts that a lot of college IT programs don't even have set up and available for students. Believe me I know, when I was attending a local college I personally donated some testing equipment for basic computers and networking because the IT program I was in had absolutely no additional budget to even afford one test computer or spare router or switch.

You can utilize the computers individually to work on the computer hardware side (such as A+ courses on computer hardware replacements, repair, and upgrades.) You can also utilize them for working with networking and operating systems. For instance, setting up network shares or VLANs, and working with installing and configuring different types of OSes such as FreeNAS Linux. And you can use the computers for running Windows Server OS and possibly even ESXi to practice some virtualization. If you have the right hardware available, you can even set up a test high-availability cluster, which is definitely something worth bragging about on your college resume!

Take a look into Dreamspark.com where students can register and receive free software from Microsoft for training and educational purposes. This is a huge resource for hands-on work with software that otherwise would cost thousands of dollars to get access to.
February 21, 2013 8:12:59 PM

Thanks for all the responses! After some deliberation, and also due to the fact that these computers are super slow all on there own, we are working on getting rocks clusters (www.rocksclusters.org) onto the computers. Our only problem is getting another network card for our head node and also getting enough switches. The thing in total will (hopefully) have 24 cores and get about 66 GFlops, which isn't that much, comapred to some on the Rocks list. I guess all we need to figure out now is what to do with it all. I personally wanted to run Folding@home or SETI (@Brett928S2), but my friends want a more "practical use" like game servers or http servers. I think i saw someone mention that they used their cluster as an http server. Maybe like each page is hosted on its own core? They are a bit dismayed that there is little personal use beside scientific research and video rendering. I've done lots of research on distributed computing stuff and the only "big" thing is Folding@home, although they already have over 5 PENTAflops :ouch:  ! Anyone who knows another use for clusters please say so. Oh, and onichikun? Those competitions intrigues me... could you send me a link? I'm in high school, and I live in Memphis, so that sounds like a great opporitunity. And something to put on my college application when I apply to MIT (like I'd ever get in anyways :lol:  ) Thanks again! -PortableSounds
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