[Beowulf] A Cluster of Motherboard.

Douglas Eadline deadline at clustermonkey.net
Fri Nov 11 10:04:40 EST 2005

I could no agree more - use cases.

If cost and time are an issue, buy cheap cases. When Jeff Layton and I
looked at building a $2500 cluster, we wanted to cut cost, but make the
systems safe, reproducible, and only require a screw driver (maybe some
needle-nose pliers as well).

You can read about the system here:


As I mentioned in the article, the best "find" was a Super-Flower Micro-ATX
case for $40. It was small, well designed and did not have sharp edges.
Unfortunately it has been discontinued, but I am sure you can find a
similar cases (make sure you can exhaust air out the back, many new models
use side exhaust which makes it hard for stacking, also buy one case and
experiment with it, do not buy N cases without first testing one of them).

BTW, you can read about how Jeff and I got 14.53 GFLOPS out of the cluster
in the November Linux Magazine - this will also appear on Cluster Monkey
in the near future as well.

One of things I have learned when building clusters is to take advantage
of mass produced anything (mostly hardware). Looking inside a diskless
node, I often get the urge to build a better enclosure, but then realize
that the cost and time to fuss around with everything is not worth it. As
a hobby, sure, it might be fun, but my interest is software, a "good
enough" solution that costs much less in both time and money always seems
to win the day for me. YMMV

> At 07:20 AM 11/10/2005, Josip Loncaric wrote:
>>Robert G. Brown wrote:
>>>On Sat, 5 Nov 2005, oxylabtech at gmail.com wrote:
>>>>It would like to know if is possible to make a cluster of
>>>>motherboards? I don't speaking in a cluster of PC's, but of
>>>>motherboards. Somebody already saw? If it is possible, Could someone
>>>>help me?
>>>you pack things too close together without shielding you
>>>could conceivably get some electrical oddities that destabilize things.
>>A cheap bare case can cost less than $20 -- and can save you a lot of
>>work, although perhaps not shelf space.  For safety, ease of
>> installation,
>>and FCC EM reasons, cheap metal cases should be considered.
> Don't forget labor.. The case already has holes punched in it, and
> probably
> those nifty little plastic mounting standoffs, etc.  Do not underestimate
> the time it takes to drill 8 holes in each of 96 plates, insert the 800
> screws, put on a washer, find the nut that you dropped and is now rattling
> around.
> The breakeven where the "mechanical hassle" factor becomes really annoying
> is probably in the dozen or so motherboard scale.
> I once had to work on a system where we had several thousand lightbulbs to
> wire up.  Never again.
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