[Beowulf] Cluster for Finite Element Analysis

Vincent Diepeveen diep at xs4all.nl
Mon Apr 25 08:34:52 EDT 2005

Hello Ghanta,

a direct question: what is your budget for this and would it be a problem
if there is sometimes a loss of data (in case the raid array crashes)?

Please realize that very small clusters (like a node or 2) require real
good software to be faster than a single dual machine.

A cheap quad opteron might be faster than a 4 node network, the 4 node
network having a higher price.

A 8 node network build from real cheap machines with gigabit ethernet, will
cause the total bandwidth over the network to be less than 200MB a second.

Count at 50MB a second. Each shipment of data from a node to another one
will cost CPU time, as gigabit ethernet doesn't use DMA like the highend

Also please consider that with 8 nodes and each node a small harddisk, that
the ODDS are real real big that one of the disks will have a problem after
a few months of operation. With 8 machines the chance is way way higher for
that than with just 1 machine.

A quad opteron is like $9000 only and even the most stupid software will be
fast at it. Adding a disk array of 2 terabyte is real easy (for example
using a fast raid-5 diskpack).

It will be very hard to beat such a system with a network. Only real good
software will and the network will be quite a bit more expensive in order
to beat it.

A good 8 node NETWORK is already $13000 or so (but then you really have
something). And if each node is like $3000 (assuming a lot of RAM inside
each node), then for like $40k (including a bunch of diskpacks) you have an
awesome system with 16 processors that kicks the hell out of anything for
you if the software can work over the network very well.

Any cluster of $2500 will be slower for you than a $2500 dual opteron
practical of course. Such contests are nice for university professors, but
worthless for serious calculation work that require the network.

There is a major difference between theory and practice. 

"If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use? Two strong oxen
or 1024 chickens?"
  Seymour Cray


At 05:09 PM 4/22/2005 -0400, you wrote:
>I am beginner and just started to learn about cluster technology. My goal is
>to build a cluster that could be used for FEA ultimately.  I have searched
>the web and it confused me more on how to do this. I was advised that this
>was a good place to ask questions and I would be getting some real help.
>1. Did anybody built a cluster for FEA application?
>2. What type of cluster should I select for FEA ?
>3. What Clustering software and other software packages should I be
>4. What are my minimum hardware requirements?
>5. Is there a set procedure on how I could proceed in building this cluster?
>Any advice on this issue will be of great help. Thank you for taking time to
>help me out
>Beowulf mailing list, Beowulf at beowulf.org
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