Cluster over standard network

Bob Drzyzgula bob at
Tue Jul 1 10:40:01 EDT 2003

On Tue, Jul 01, 2003 at 02:15:21PM +0100, Cannon, Andrew wrote:
> Hi all,
> Has anyone implemented a cluster over a normal office network using the PCs
> on people's desks as part of the cluster? If so, what was the performance of
> the cluster like? What sort of performance penalty was there for the
> ordinary user and what was the network traffic like?
> Just a thought...

This is actually the way much of this stuff used to be
done, before commodity computers became both powerful and
inexpensive enough [1] to make it worth buying them just to
place in a computing cluster. It was quite common in the
early 1990s (and likely still is, in many organizations),
for example, to have PVM running on production office
and lab networks. However, one did have to be reasonably
considerate. One didn't usually use these ad hoc clusters
during business hours (or at least ran the jobs at idle
priority if one did) and one usually asked permission of
the person to whom the computer had been assigned before
adding it to the cluster. One also had to be careful not
to cause problems with other off-hours operations, such
as filesystem backups.

Of course this approach has disadvantages, and may not 
work well at all for certain types of network-intensive
applications. But if one had, for example, a Monte Carlo
simulation to run, and there was no hope of getting mo'
better computers, it could make the difference between
the the analysis being done or not done.


[1] Or perhaps I should say before cast-off computers were
powerful enough, since that's what the first Beowulf was
made from, but that phase didn't last very long; it soon
became obvious the the cluster idea was useful enough to
justify the purchase of new machines, and cast-off machines
had problems with reliability and power consumption that
made them less than ideal for this application.
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