[Beowulf] hardware question: building a cluster node/ student workstation

Mark Hahn hahn at mcmaster.ca
Wed Jul 25 18:12:16 EDT 2007


> Scientific Linux (RHEL 4)
> AMD 4400+ x2 Athlon 64 (dual core, 2MB L2)
> Abit nf-95 motherboard (cheapest socket 939 board at the time)
> 2GB RAM, DDR 400
> 200GB SATA hard drive
> integrated graphics, sound, 10/100 LAN

all my pennies are paper-thin: this actually seems fairly generous,
at least in cpu and disk - perhaps too thin in networking.

> Earlier this summer, the case fan on one of the machines failed, and the
> result seems like a cooked motherboard (erratic errors with the integrated
> NIC).  The question I'm asking the list is the following:  In a university
> setting I can't just ebay off the old parts and buy a new node.  Thus I'm
> limited presently to looking for a motherboard with AMD's socket 939 and a
> few SATA2 ports - everything else is up for grabs.  Is it worth my time (and
> funds) to buy a motherboard in the $200 range (ie something like a tyan
> s2866g3nr), or should I again go with the cheapest thing there is (something
> like an Asus a8v-xe in the $50 range).

this is a low-end cluster (pardon me for saying so!), and I think it 
should use low-end components.  sticking in a serverish, ECC-capable,
SLI-toting MB doesn't make much sense, considering that the $150 saved
would go a long way towards adding another (updated) node...

> I don't really understand the distinction between these two groups of
> hardware.  The tyan is probably a bad example because it has 3 network
> ports, but aside from this, they seem like basically the same board.  I'd
> appreciate advice on putting together a decent machine.

I would stick to NVidia and ATI chipsets in this category, but I don't
think it makes much difference which brand you get.  I probably _would_
choose a board with no MB-fan, with gigabit, with monitoring of the 
cpu and case fans ;)
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