My Other Computer Is a Supercomputer

Steve Jones started taking notes on PBS, MPI and MOSIX in November 2002, and by June 2003 he was manager of a cluster on the TOP500 list. Here's how the Rocks distribution can help cluster managers get systems up and running.
Personal Supercomputer Philosophy

The goal of any high-performance computing cluster should be to bring it to a stable and working state as quickly as possible, and then run it until the hardware dies. This allows the users of the system performing research to have a stable system to use on demand. Making changes to the system for the sake of making changes is not how to handle a computing system of this scale. In my mind, this is what is provided by using the cluster distribution that we've chosen on which to standardize. The only administration work should be monitoring queues, filesystem sizes, reviewing logs for errors and/or activity and monitoring hardware to determine whether replacement is needed. With the combination of Rocks and a support plan from Dell, using Silver support on the compute nodes and Gold on the front end, we will enjoy three years of worry-free performance and parts replacement. Our goal is to generate funds by billing for compute time that will allow for the replacement of the cluster within the three-year period. And when the new cluster arrives, we'll install Rocks, and we will be off and running for another three-year cycle.

The current plan is to charge for usage on Iceberg with the idea that the revenue generated will cover the purchase of a replacement cluster in three years. This replacement most likely will be Iceberg-II, with the same node count, but a 1U form factor rather than 2U in order to maximize our floor space. Iceberg will stay on-line as separate cluster and decrease in size as hardware fails.

Additionally, we are in the planning stages of acquiring a new 600-node cluster that we plan to bring up in the next 6–12 months. This cluster will be housed at an off-site location. We are in negotiations with a research institute that has expressed interest in housing the cluster and providing specialized services (generated power, UPS, power, HVAC and so on) free of charge, in exchange for processing time on the cluster. Other options are being considered as well. Outside the scope of Iceberg, I'm looking into building yet another cluster for commercial purposes. I'd like to think this would be the largest Rocks cluster when completed, in addition to claiming a top-20 seat on the TOP500.


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