Abstract: Commodity silicon technology including microprocessor
performance and memory density has improved tremendously in the last few
years. Commodity networking, especially fast ethernet at 100~Mbs has made
it possible to design distributed memory systems with tolerable bandwidths
Free operating systems, especially Linux and FreeBSD are available, reliable and well-supported, and are distributed with complete source code, encouraging the development of additional tools including low-level drivers, parallel file systems, communication libraries, etc.
Industry standard parallel programming environments, e.g., MPI, PVM, BSP, are commonplace across the spectrum of high-end supercomputers, and are also available for, and well-suited to, Beowulf-class systems.
It is possible to assemble a system, scalable up to 256 processors using Pentium Pro processors, each with 128MB of memory and 3GB of secondary storage and capable of 200Mflops (peak) for under $2000 per processor. Approximately 25% of this cost is devoted to the network. The processors are connected by fast (100~Mbs) ethernet and a switch fabric that includes a gigabit ethernet backplane and 100~Mbs links to individual processors.
We will report on a number of science and engineering applications that have be en ported from other message-passing parallel architectures, and compare the performance, and price/performance ratio with other available systems. In addition, low-level bandwidth and latency benchmarks of the scalable network configuration will be reported.
Dr. Thomas Sterling is currently on a joint research appointment at the California Institute of Technology and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Sterling has been engaged in research related to parallel computer architecture, system software, and evaluation for more than a decade. He was a key contributor to the design, implementation, and testing of several experimental parallel architectures. The focus of Dr. Sterling's research has been on the modeling and evaluation of performance factors determining scalability of high performance computing systems. Upon completion of his Ph.D. as a Hertz Fellow from MIT in 1984, Dr. Sterling served as a research scientist at Harris Corporation's Advanced Technology Department, and later with the systems group of the IDA Supercomputing Research Center. In 1992, Dr. Sterling joined the USRA Center for Excellence in Space Data and Information Sciences to support the NASA HPCC earth and space sciences project at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Dr. Sterling is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Maryland College Park, where he lectures on computer architecture. He holds six patents, is the co-author of two books and has published dozens of papers in the field of parallel computing.