How to build an ultra cheap beowulf cluster
The total material bill came to $US 4150, for that you get a 10 node 600 MHz PIII 128 MB ram per node cluster. (Prices April 2000).
They all boot of their own floppy disk. Each machine is hooked up to the net using a 100 Mbit ethernet card.
Please note that there is nothing 'beautiful' about this setup, it does run lightning fast though.
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First we had to get a hardware configuration that would work reliably with the lrp (linux router project) kernel, that forms the software side of the cluster.
So we Tested - different motherboards were mounted on a piece of wood and we let them burn for a few days, trying different configurations. We found some interesting little details about network cards and chipset sub versions, some of which would not talk to our switch, but in the end all the problems were resolved.
To save space and to make the construction as open as possible (cooling !) the motherboards were threaded like beads on a chain using 3 foot long threaded rods.