March 29, 2002

Yale boosts Beowulf supercomputing clusters with Turbolinux

Anonymous Reader writes: "There's no shortage of computing power in the computer science department at Yale University, in New Haven, Conn. Along with assorted high-powered workstations and other computers, the department has two Linux-based Beowulf clusters. But taking advantage of the computing power in those clusters hasn't always been easy.

Until recently, students and professors who wanted to harness the processing power of the Beowulf clusters -- one of which uses 20 Dell servers, the other 20 IBM Netfinity systems -- had to modify the programs they were using to run in parallel. That, says Prof. Martin Schultz, of Yale's computer science department, requires having access to the program's source code, and using a low-level tool such as Message Passing Interface (MPI) to modify it -- not always a simple task. "MPI has over three hundred commands," Schultz says. "It's not easy to master."

Thanks to Turbolinux' Enfuzion, which Yale is now running on both Beowulf clusters, that's no longer the case. Enfuzion, says Schultz, is easy to use, because it takes care of distributing programs across the various nodes in the cluster, so they run without having to be modified. Researchers and students at Yale can now take advantage of the super-computing level of power provided by the clusters, without having to do any special programming.

The importance of that "can not be overestimated," says Schultz. "If scientists have to spend time making changes to their software program, it can take a long time to get their research up and running. When you're competing with other researchers, you don't want a system that takes a long time to use, you want to crank out results."

Now that it's possible to run programs on the Beowulf clusters without spending lots of time to modify them for parallel computing, Schultz plans to assign projects involving cluster computing to his classes. Several dozen other professors and graduate students, both in and out of the computer science department, will be using Enfuzion to run programs as well.

Eventually, Schultz expects lots of departments on campus to use the clusters. For example, the Yale medical school and the university's biology departments do a lot of computationally-intensive research. "I expect Enfuzion will play a big role there," Schultz says. Since Enfuzion can easily manage clusters consisting of thousands of computers, Schultz anticipates no problems expanding the clusters to handle the load.

But the clusters may not have to grow at all. Yale is taking advantage of Enfuzion's unique ability to harness idle CPU cycles on computers outside the cluster. The university will use Enfuzion to distribute programs to 20 other computers, which sit on the desks of students and professors in the department. Enfuzion's load balancing facilities will automatically run programs on these systems when they're not otherwise in use. "If you don't use them, these CPU cycles disappear," say Schultz. "It's not a resource you can store up. But with Enfuzion, these machines will be in use nights and weekends, or whenever someone is not actually sitting at the keyboard using them. It lets us make maximum use of our computing resources."

About Turbolinux EnFuzion
Turbolinux EnFuzion clusters all available computing resources on a corporate network to create a powerful "virtual supercomputer" and, as a result, allows companies to reduce time and costs associated with computationally demanding data processing jobs. Traditionally, these jobs - such as complex financial calculations - have been handled by expensive high-end servers. With the growing need to process increasing volumes of complex jobs in a shorter time period, the cost of traditional solutions becomes prohibitive. To learn more please visit


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