Linux Cluster for Computational Physics Applications

Maintained by Eric Hazen ( Updated 16 January 2006

This page is intended to provide documentation of Linux computing clusters being constructed at Boston University for Dr. Anders Sandvik.

The initial cluster prototype consists of 48 nodes arranged on plates with 3 motherboards each. One 380W power supply powers each plate. A single 48-port 100BaseT ethernet switch provides. network connections to all nodes in a rack. Nodes are currently diskless, though a small disk could probably be added if a large PSU were used.

48-node Prototype 2

Completed summer 2005. Instead of a flat plate we use a custom-made aluminum box with punched holes and welded corners made by a local sheet-metal house.

This version uses Intel D865GLCL motherboards, Intel P4 3.0GHz/800MHz CPU, 1GB memory per node and Antec True430 power supplies.

Cost for all computer parts (MoBo, CPU, RAM, PSU) for 48 nodes is about US$23,000.
Other hardware (rack, boxes, power distribution PCBs, wiring harnesses, etc) was about US$4,500.
This works out to US$565 per node (without labour).

Drawings Directory for custom parts New!

img_0057_ic.jpg Small (88K)  
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Rack with 15 nodes installed. Rack is built of standard slotted steel angle (quite cheap). img_0058_ic.jpg Small (96K)  
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Another view.
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Close-up. Note rear cooling fan for each node (blowing toward camera) plus large cut-out for cables and cooling air exit. img_0060_ic.jpg Small (100K)  
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Top view showing wiring.
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View of empty box. Hole pattern accomodates standard ATX or Micro-ATX footprint motherboards. img_0062_ic.jpg Small (84K)  
Large (1.3M)

48-node Prototype 1

Each node consists of a Shuttle motherboard with 1GB RAM and a Pentium 4 (Northwood) 3.0GHz processor. Power required is approximately 28A at 117VAC for 48 nodes.

Parts are mounted on flat aluminum plates resting on a utility shelf.

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Complete 48-node rack. Note network switch on table, and home-made 240V two-phase power distribution boxes at left. img_0064_ic.jpg Small (144K)  
Large (1.8M)
View of several plates.
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Close-up showing power distribution PCB.

Preliminary Design

Below are some preliminary drawings of a rack layout for 48 nodes. Mini-ATX format motherboards are assumed.

Reference Materials