Building a Linux-Based High-Performance Compute Cluster

The Rocks clustering package from the University of California at San Diego makes it easy to build and maintain a high-performance compute cluster with off-the-shelf hardware.
Step 3. Final Hardware Setup

Select one machine to be the head node for the cluster. The rest of the machines will be the compute nodes in your new cluster. As it installs the compute nodes, Rocks numbers the machines as compute-x-y, where the x is the rack number, and y is the number of the machine within a rack. Say you spread the 32 nodes over four racks. If you want to follow the Rocks naming convention, you would set things up as follows: rack 0 contains the head node, so the numbering of the nodes would be compute-0-0 to compute-0-6. Rack 1 would come out as compute-1-0 to compute-1-7. Rack 2 would contain compute-2-0 to compute-2-7. Rack 3 would follow suit.

Alternatively, you simply could pretend that all the machines are in a single rack: compute-0-0 to compute-0-30. Either way works, so use whatever is comfortable for you.

Step 4. Get the Rocks Software Package

First, you need to get a copy of the Rocks package that will be appropriate for your cluster's hardware. Navigate to the Rocks Web site, and select the Download tab at the top of the home page to access the various versions of the package. The 5.1 version is the latest at the time of this writing. Click the link to get a listing of the components of the package. For this exercise, I selected the x86-64 Jumbo DVD image, downloaded it and burned it onto an empty DVD. While you are at the site, download the documentation. If nothing else, it will give you something to read while the software loads.

Step 5. Boot Head Node and Select Installation Source

Boot the head node from the newly minted Rocks DVD. If everything is working as it should, you will be greeted with the welcome screen shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Rocks Welcome Screen

Enter build at the boot: prompt to start the installation sequence. The system boots in the normal Linux fashion and eventually presents the user with the initial Rocks configuration screen shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Rocks Configuration Screen

Because you have all of the software components on the Jumbo DVD, you will do your installation from CD/DVD-Based Rolls. Select CD/DVD-Based Roll. This brings up a screen listing all the individual components you can select from the DVD (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Rolls Selection Screen

For the purposes of this installation, I selected everything except the Bio Roll and the Virtualization Roll. You probably will select a different set of components. At absolute minimum, you need to select the Base, Web Server, Kernel and OS Rolls. Once you have made your selections, click Submit to continue the installation.

Step 6. Confirm Your Selections

The installation now repeats the first screen, showing your selections (Figure 5). If you are satisfied with your selections, click Next to continue to the first of the administrative screens in the installation. If you want to make a change, click CD/DVD-Based Roll to go back to the component selection screen.

Figure 5. Rolls Selected Items Screen