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2. Hardware

This section covers the hardware choices I've made. Unless noted in the known hardware issues section, assume that everything works really well.

Hardware installation is also fairly straight-forward unless otherwise noted, with most of the details covered by the manuals. For each section, the hardware is listed in the order of purchase (most recent is listed first).

2.1 Node hardware

32 machines have the following setup each:

32 machines have the following setup each:

32 machines have the following setup each:

32 machines have the following setup each:

32 machines have the following setup each:

2.2 Server hardware

Two servers for external use (dissemination of information) with the following setups:

2.3 Desktop and terminal hardware

We have identified at least two kinds of users of our cluster: those that need (i.e., take advantage of) permanent local processing power and disk space in conjunction with the cluster to speed up processing, and those that just need only the cluster processing power. The former are assigned "desktops" which are essentially high-performance machines, and the latter are assigned dumb "terminals". Our desktops are usually dual or quad processor machines with the current high-end CPU being a 1.6 GHz Opteron, having as much as 10 GB of RAM, and over 1 TB of local disk space. Our terminals are essentially machines where a user can log in and then run jobs on our farm. In this setup, people may also use laptops as dumb terminals.

2.4 Miscellaneous/accessory hardware

We generally use/prefer Viewsonic monitors, Microsoft Intellimouse mice, and Microsoft Natural keyboards. These generally have worked quite reliably for us.

2.5 Putting-it-all-together hardware

For visual access to the nodes, we initially used to use KVM switches with a cheap monitor to connect up and "look" at all the machines. While this was a nice solution, it did not scale. We currently wheel a small monitor around and hook up cables as needed. What we need is a small hand held monitor that can plug into the back of the PC (operated with a stylus, like the Palm).

For networking, we generally use Netgear and Cisco switches.

2.6 Costs

Our vendor is Hard Drives Northwest ( For each compute node in our cluster (containing two processors), we paid about $1500-$2000, including taxes. Generally, our goal is to keep the cost of each processor to below $1000 (including housing it).

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