Beowulf cluster possible?

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Problem :

I don’t really know where to find people who have experience in building computer clusters, so I thought maybe someone from here might answer my question.

Basically I have two machines at my disposal:

  • A Pentium III (dual processor board) with 2 x 733MHz, 1GB RAM and an ATI Radeon 9500 graphics card, the OS being Linux Mint Debian edition
    A relatively modern laptop HP ProBook 4530s.with Ubuntu 13.10
    Could I combine them into a Beowulf cluster? Is it doable?
  • A relatively modern laptop HP ProBook 4530s.with Ubuntu 13.10
    Could I combine them into a Beowulf cluster? Is it doable?

Why? I guess I’ve been wanting to do this for a while already, and it’s bugging me. Also on a scale of 1 to 10 how hard would this be to do for just an IT undergraduate student?

Solution :

Yes, it is perfectly feasible to build a Beowulf cluster from dissimilar hardware, and in fact also dissimilar software (at least, different linux kernels / distributions). The main limitation is that the specific application software and message passing interfaces you want to use all have to run on each type of machine in the cluster.

It is normally preferred to have identical machines because it makes system administration easier. You can use the same disk image, or at least the same configuration files, on every machine. With dissimilar hardware, you will have to put in more effort individually configuring each (type of) node. However, this isn’t a great overhead if you only have a couple of nodes.

And yes, it should be pretty easy for an IT undergrad to do (maybe 2 or 3 out of 10 on the difficulty scale). When I was an Engineering undergrad (approx 15 years ago), I build a three-node system to produce ray-traced videos using a distributed version of the Persistence of Vision ray tracer. I used i586/i686 machines with different linux kernels and networking hardware. There was lots of documentation available to help back then, and I would assume things have got easier now. Another helpful source is the Beowulf HOWTO.

Here is a link from official Linux Forum

While I haven’t personally gone through it, I have looked over it and it seems pretty easy. I am also an undergrad student in IT, I am using a total of 4 computers. I think if you spent some time on it and really tried to learn what you were doing, you could do it. Also, some food for thought, I had the opportunity to sit in a couple Senior presentations, there was a raspberry pi Beowulf cluster and the professors loved it. They thought that it was incredible.

That is another link that would go through the building process.