[Beowulf] portable clusters

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Mon Nov 28 00:32:45 EST 2005


Has anyone done a diskless cluster (i.e. boot the nodes off the network) 
where the nodes run Linux but the headnode/server is a WinXP/Win2K box?

Think in terms of booting off the drive in a laptop.

The application is one where the raw data that's being processed is 
collected by peculiar hardware for which only windows drivers are available.

I suppose one can run some form of Windows server that does the DHCP and 
PXE stuff (after all, it must get done in a "pure windows" environment 
somehow), but is it sufficiently generalized that I can take a Linux 
bootable image to shove out to the nodes.  I did find some stuff on booting 
XP(embedded) via PXE, and some stuff on what MS calls Remote Installation 
Service using PXE.

There's "Services for Unix" but I dont' see a dhcpd in there anywhere.  SFU 
does provide a NFS server and client, so at least the nodes could 
conceivably mount the laptop disk.

Perhaps one "hack" would be to have something like one of those network 
firewall appliances that does DHCP, but able to spit out the right stuff to 
respond to the PXE sequence.  Obviously, the run of the mill 
Linksys/D-Link/etc widgets may not do this, but maybe there is one?

Or, don't rely on PXE, but use a flash RAM (USB stick/Compact Flash/etc) 
image to get things going and then use the laptop for NFS?


James Lux, P.E.
Spacecraft Radio Frequency Subsystems Group
Flight Communications Systems Section
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mail Stop 161-213
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
tel: (818)354-2075
fax: (818)393-6875

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