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How To Build Your Own Beowulf GPU Cluster

2. Beowulf GPU Cluster - Parts:

Having decided on a design for your cluster, the next step is to plan what computers you will need to build it. The great thing about Beowulf clusters is that you may have many parts you need already such as old CPU boxes and possibly newer CPU's and motherboards. If you do happen to have something nice like say on old Dell box with a quad core and a motherboard with enough PCIe slots for your planned design, you can often find identical boxes on Ebay rather easily. This can make your build go pretty smoothly, but if you dont have any of these items already, no problem. There are numerous routes to go here, including looking for deals on a bundle of old quad core boxes, but I prefer to just buy parts individually for my intended design.

Parts List

1. CPUs

Your choice of CPUs will likely depend on how much of your programs are actually using CPU power, but even if that isn't a lot you may not want to skimp in this area. For compute nodes, quad cores are abundant and cheap right now but upgrading to 6 cores won't cost you that much extra in the overall scheme of things. To save money I use AMD processors, they may not be as "technologically advanced" as Intel processors when it comes to handling the latest Windows OS and software, but for brute force computation on a Linux machine they are just as good. The CPU on your head node should be as good or better than your compute nodes if you plan on doing a lot of developing, but if your head node is just for remote login then a cheap 2 core should suffice.

2. GPUs

Of course, the most important part of your GPU cluster will be your GPU. I run Nvidia GTX 470s as I feel they are a great bang for the buck, but if you are reading this you likely have your own idea of what GPU to run.

3. Memory

Your choice of memory size and speed may be limited by your choice of motherboards, but for a serious yet affordable machine you should at least be able to run 4 GB of DDR2 on a cheap motherboard.

4. Motherboard

The two most important factors in motherboard choice will be your CPU socket and how many GPUs you want to run. AMD and Intel socket boards are comparable in price, the big difference comes from the number of PCIe slots. One PCIe slot is cheap, more will cost you.

5. Hard Drives

You will want one big hard drive (1 TB or more) for your head node, as for your compute nodes you should be able to get away with the smallest cheapest one you can find since all they will be used for is storing the OS and any software you may need, things like data files should all be written to the head node via a universal mount file system.

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