BEAM BEOWULF SYSTEMS
BEAM have been developing software for and producing parallel computing
systems based on Unix for ten years. Most of or work has been with embedded
processors installed within PC based Unix Workstations. Now with the advent
of the Open Source Linux operating system, fast 100Mbit network switches,
low CPU utilisation Ethernet cards and low cost fast PC processors the
way has been opened to produce very flexible, extensible and low cost
parallel computing platforms based upon PC Hardware.
The system hardware consists of a host node and many worker nodes
each enclosed in individual rack mounting cases that are installed into
rack towers. Each node is based on PC architecture and has either two Intel
Pentium II 450Mhz processors or a DEC Alpha processor with local caches
sharing 128 Mbytes or more of PC100 SDRAM RAM and a local disk. Local RAM
and I/O devices are easily up-gradable. The nodes and host are interconnected
by 100Mbit fast Ethernet connections through fast Ethernet switch units.
The Ethernet switch provides full bi-directional wire speed networking
performance between all nodes giving a node bandwidth of 200Mbits/s. The
host is connected via a separate Ethernet gateway to the sites local area
network. As well as the low cost Ethernet communications Gigabit Ethernet
and point-to-point networks can be optionally used.
Each node can have a number of PCI devices attached. These include
Alpha processing boards and FPGA boards.
The system is inherently multi-user and can be used from the console
or from any computer on the local area network.
The system is expandable to add more nodes as required.
The software for the system is based upon the stable and becoming increasingly
popular, Open Source, Linux operating system. The host and each node
runs an optimised Linux kernel and has access to the full system
resources. The system includes compilers for 'C', 'C++', Objective C, Fortran,
Java, Pascal, Perl, tk etc. Embedded processors run a micro Linux kernel
that communicates with a host I/O processor on the host node.
Software for parallel processing comes from the world wide development
community and is based upon the work of the Beowulf Project at CEDIS. Software
includes PVM, MPI and BSP. Also conventional Unix process communication
and inter networking is available such as SYSV IPC, pthreads and TCP/IP
networking. Each Intel Pentium node is run as a dual processor SMP machine.
All of the systems software is available in source code form.
In addition to the standard Linux and parallel processing software comes
BEAMS parallel processing tool kit and a host of development goodies including:
Integrated development environment
GUI based symbolic debugger
GUI source code editor
Automatic installation of software on the nodes from host system.
Management of nodes from host system including boot up messages and control
to reboot and power off.
Performance monitoring application for CPU's, RAM and communications in
Due to the use of PC PCI bus based motherboards and the Linux operating
system, it is easy to add processing and I/O devices to each node. Some
AlphaData DEC Alpha based processing boards
FPGA compute engine boards
High Bandwidth Display Boards
The performance of the inter node communications is very important in getting
real parallel computer performance from applications. BEAM Beowulf systems
are based upon a switch 100Mbit Ethernet network. The Ethernet cards in
each machine operate in full duplex 100Mbit/s mode providing a maximum
bi-directional data rate of 200Mbits/s. The Ethernet switches employed
offer full wire performance between all nodes simultaneously up to quite
a large number of nodes.
As well as the 100Mbit Ethernet communications system other optional communications
systems can be utilised. These include Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre channel.
Each Pentium node has two Pentium II 450Mhz processors each of these has
the following performance figures:
System support documentation