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I-Cluster: Reaching TOP500 Performance Using Mainstream Hardware

Richard, B.; Augerat, P.; Maillard, N.; Derr, S.; Martin, S.; Robert, C.


Keyword(s): cluster; performance; TOP500; network; switch; PC; Linpack benchmark

Abstract: A common topic for PC clusters is the use of mainstream instead of dedicated hardware i.e., using standard desktop PCs and standard network connectivity, with technology to organize them so that they can be used as a single computing entity. Current work in this "off-the-shelf cluster" domain usually focuses on how to reach a high availability infrastructure, on how to efficiently balance the work between nodes of such clusters, or on how to get the most computing power for loosely-coupled (large grained) problems. hp Labs Grenoble, teaming with INRIA Rhone-Alpes, teamed up to build a cluster out of 225 standard hp e-PC interconnected by standard Ethernet, with the objective of getting the highest computational performance and scaling from the simplest desktop PC to the most powerful computers in the world. As an additional constraint, we decided to use a cluster that models a modern enterprise network, using standard machines interconnected through standard Ethernet connectivity. This paper describes the issues and challenges we had to overcome in order to reach the 385th rank in the TOP500 list of most powerful supercomputers in the world on June 21st, 2001, being the first mainstream cluster to enter TOP500 ever. Also we provide hereafter some details about the software and middleware tuning we have done, as well as the impact of different factors on performance such as the network topology and infrastructure hardware.

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