Cluster distributions?

Robert G. Brown rgb at
Fri Sep 19 12:12:54 EDT 2003

On Thu, 18 Sep 2003, Ryan Burns wrote:

> Hello, 
> I've been running a very small 4 node beowulf cluster for a project. Right
> now I'm running Debian on the cluster and I'm not very happy with it or
> the tools available through the distribution.
> Does anyone have any suggestions of a good distribution? What about
> MSC.Linux? any good?
> I am also looking for tools to automate software installations across all
> the nodes, etc.
> I like the Debian package system, I just wish there was an easy way to
> have the process replicate across all the computers.

I think that your best choices are likely to be one of the following:

  Scyld ("free" version of commercial open source, probably, for such a
small cluster) or Clustermatic (fully GPL).
  Red Hat with kickstart and yum (kickstart is precisely an easy way to
install boilerplate scripted systems, although yes you have to learn to
use it).  If your systems have PXE-capable NICs you can get it to where
you can (re)install a system over the network by just turning it on, or
turning it on and selecting kickstart at a boot prompt.  Yum then keeps
the systems up to date, provided that you mirror your base repository
from a site that mirrors a site that mirrors Red Hat that keeps the
repository up to date with regard to at least security fixes and major
  Oscar, Rocks or other cluster toolsets (as discussed on the list just
last week, check list archives) have tools to facilitate this kind of
thing as well, often on top of one or more of the major distributions.
  Don't be too hasty to drop Debian -- you may just not be using it
right.  Check out the Debian FAI (Fully Automated Installation) site.

All the links you might need for this stuff (in addition to being
readily available via google) are collected on:

along with a lot of other stuff, of course.  Some of which you might
also find interesting, but which isn't directly related to cluster
installation methodologies.


> Thanks, 
> Ryan Burns
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Robert G. Brown	             
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at

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