AMD Tunes Scyld Beowulf for Linux Clusters

Continuing its drive into specialized markets, Advanced Micro Devices Tuesday is working with some Linux clustering firms for its upcoming AMD Opteron processors.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based semiconductor maker said that Annapolis, MD-based Scyld Computing is developing a 64-bit version of Scyld Beowulf, a cluster operating system, for systems based on the Opteron processor (formerly known as Sledgehammer).

The two companies say the partnership is expected to bring enhanced Linux kernel, libraries and utilities specific to clustered x86 computing.

“Increasingly, customers’ computing needs are expanding beyond demand accommodated by a single, large shared memory machine,” said Scyld CTO Don Becker. “AMD Opteron processor-based Beowulf clusters are designed to provide 64-bit performance and x86 economies of scale.”

The new version is expected to be available mid-first half 2003.

In the taxomony of parallel computers, Beowulf clusters fall somewhere between MPP (Massively Parallel Processors, like the nCube, CM5, Convex SPP, Cray T3D, Cray T3E, etc.) and NOWs (Networks of Workstations). The systems are built primarily out of commodity hardware components, running a free-software operating system like Linux or FreeBSD , interconnected by a private high-speed network. It consists of a cluster of PCs or workstations dedicated to running high-performance computing tasks.

The nodes in the cluster don’t sit on people’s desks; they are dedicated to running cluster jobs. It is usually connected to the outside world through only a single node. According to industry site, some Linux clusters are built for reliability instead of speed. These are not Beowulfs.

Scyld said its Beowulf operating software allows for a single system image for cluster process management. Processes running on cluster “Computation Node” computers are managed from the cluster’s front-end “Master Node”.

Processes start on the front-end node and migrate to a cluster node. Sclyd said process parent-child relationships and UNIX job control are maintained with migrated tasks. Cluster compute nodes are not required to contain resident applications. Their hard disks are used for application data and cache. The company said this approach eliminates version skew common with previous generation clusters.

Using AMD’s Opteron line, the upcoming version is planned to support both 32-bit and 64-bit application development and simplified migration of existing 32-bit applications and easier development of new 64-bit applications.

“With AMD Opteron processors and Scyld Beowulf software, customers should have the ability to take a complicated set of calculations and run it parallel across multiple machines, providing the first 64-bit, x86-based classic cluster model,” said AMD server group vice president Marty Seyer. “Enterprise and high performance computing customers are also planned to be able to run existing 32-bit applications on clusters based on the AMD 64-bit technology, protecting their existing technology investment while simplifying their migration to 64-bit clustered computing.”

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