ideal motherboard for diskless beowulf

Mark Hahn hahn at physics.mcmaster.ca
Thu Jun 12 18:28:00 EDT 2003


> > I am in the process of designing a 12-node diskless
> > cluster. I am going with AMD CPUs, but not quite

why are you fixed on AMD?  in my opinion, there are several
very important features which are scarce in the Athlon world:

	- fast memory.  the basic dual-Xeon now has 2xpc2100 ram,
	which is critically important to a lot of codes.
	Opterons are a whole different story, of course, but 
	then again, uniprocessor 6.4 GB/s P4c's are, too.
	don't even get me started about quad Itanium2's ;)

	- onboard, PXE-enabled gigabit, preferably two.
	for quite a while, Intel didn't have the best smell
	in the Linux world when it came to NICs, but the e1000
	seems quite fine now.

	- PCIX - fast implementations of PCI are critical for 
	getting serious cluster interconnect to perform.  course,
	"serious" interconnect means big bucks, which makes this 
	relevant only for certain categories of cluster.

> > confident which mobo to use, for serving the following
> > with a limited budget:
> > 
> > - (must)  onboard LAN

are there *any* athlon boards with gigabit onboard?  some, I guess.

> > - (must)  proven Linux (RH7.2) compatibility

that's not really saying much - I think you'd be fine with 
anything recent from VIA, and I think SiS support has gotten
better recently.  of course, AMD still makes the only dual-athlon
chipset, right?  choosing from among the top 5 motherboard vendors 
is a good way to get decent compatibility...

> > - (ideal) micro-atx 

hmm.  certainly possible, but that puts you into the small/cheap
category of clusters (as opposed to the large and probably more expensive,
also known as "server").  u-atx just so it fits in small (cheap) cases?

> > - (ideal) wide range of CPU support, i.e. from Duron
> > sub-GHz up to XP 2600+

that shouldn't be a problem.  though I'm not sure it would make sense
to build a cluster that mixed CPUs like that, or one that went with 
Durons (simply because Athlon's at their sweetspot offer quite a bit 
better price/performance.)

> > - (bonus) some overclocking capabilities

just say no.  seriously.  it's hard to imagine why you'd want a 
compute cluster if you couldn't trust the results.

> UP or MP?  MP can be a hair cheaper per CPU, if your tasks aren't

far be it from be to disagree with rgb, but I'm not so sure about this.
at the very least, you'd have to add that it depends on the number of 
duplicated components for UP.  it's clear that MP boards tend to cost 
2-4x as much as uni, and MP chips are noticably more expensive as well.
so it boils down to an extra disk, PS, case, switch port, maybe video card.
(assuming you have the same ram-per-cpu in either case.)

> fiasco) been generally satisfied with them.  I use Tyan's (e.g. Tyan
> 2466 or better) for duals -- they have onboard 100BT or better (current
> motherboards have dual GigE NICs onboard, as well as video).

oh, cool, I hadn't looked at Tyan dual-athlon boards recently - 
they've got both 64x66 and gigabit.

> from 7-9.  Beware motherboards with onboard RTL 8139 NICs -- they are
> cheap, common, and suck.  I'd plan on adding a decent NIC a la carte if
> I "had" to pick a motherboard with an onboard RTL.

8139's are fairly wimpy, but then again, 100bT is pretty miserable - 
do you really worry about whether your 8139 is consuming a few more 
cycles than a smarter NIC would, given that it's only doing ~9 MB/s?

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