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Old 12-03-2002, 11:03 AM   #1
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clustering with SMPs

i had posted this on google and gotten no replies, so i thought i would try here. i am looking for some advice.

we have three 8-way SMPs that we are going to hook together to form a 24-processor cluster. right now, we envision that the head node (a separate, one-processor pentium) will talk to a RAID-5 system through its SCSI interface, and the 8-way's will be backend crunch boxes that can only speak to the RAID through networking.

can someone point me in the right direction as far as what the best way to load the OS is? do i need it on all 4 boxes, or can i effectively run the three backends diskless, with local swap on each of them. if i do run the OS on all four boxes, what is the best way to keep them all up to date and synchronized? is redhat advanced server a way to go here? if someone could point me to a link, it would be great.

i appreciate the help. i hope that this is the right forum.

Old 12-30-2002, 03:31 AM   #2
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This is interesting because I’m planning on building a cluster too. At first I was inclined to make a disk-less cluster much like your setup. But, after some surfing around, I ran across an email (internal IBM actually) where the sender's advice was to stay away form disk-less clusters. His argument was that disk-less clusters put too much unnecessary strain on the network and that even under moderate loads an nfs would occasionally fail!

Personally, I don’t have any experience with nfs to form my own opinion but it does seem to make sense. I would also imagine that you would need a lot of memory in a disk-less setup… the last thing you want to see is swapping over the network.

Any way, since the cluster is purely for educational purposes… I‘ve decided to take a route somewhere in the middle, the nodes will have a very small disk (a compact flash card actually) to boot into a very light but working system, then anything else would be mounted over the network.

If you decide to take a similar rout as me, take a look at “white dwarf linux” ( It is a very light distribution made for embedded systems, it is based on slackware and has a modern kernel (2.4.18), after a bit of tweaking, I’ve got it installed with networking fully working at under 16 Mb (after “tinylogin”, before “busybox” … check them out!).

If you decide to take a fully disk-less approach, you will need to setup the tftp server on the head node (for the network boot) and have the nodes boot from a floppy disk or an EPROM (on the NIC). Take a look at PXELINUX and NILO ( and they are network boot loaders. You can get the EPROM’s from D-Link or you can buy NICs that already have the EPROM built in … I don’t know this as a fact but I once read that the Intel NIC's have a download limit (for ethernet boot) that is less than your average linux kernel and thus useless.

Either way, take a look at:

Well I hope this essay came in handy
Best of luck


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