Multi-Processor Pentium Clusters (was Re: First place.)

Stuart Stock (
Thu, 17 Apr 1997 11:36:24 -0500 (CDT)

On Thu, 17 Apr 1997, Warner Losh wrote:

> I have been hearing for years about multiple cpu designs going on at
> various government labs. I recall that Sandia had an experimental
> Pentium MP machine with either 1,000 or 10,000 processors (my memory
> is failing me) in it with private and shared memory for each (it is
> hard to tell for sure, cine it was a popular press report). This key
> thing is just the ticket for something like this. The picture they
> had in the paper showed a "rack" sized box (that is 19"wide, by 8'
> tall by about 30-40" deep) full of backplanes and such. I don't know
> how much that press report got right, but it does make you think.

One of the efforts you are refering to is the Beowulf Project. A
Beowulf is a collection of semi-autonomous Linux based PC nodes connected
via multiple switched and/or channel-bonded Fast Ethernet connections.
There are several Beowulf clusters running right now each using a slightly
different approach to the ethernet communication and parallel
implimentation. The implimentation at Caltech looks like this:

Each node: 200MHz Pentium Pro
128 MB RAM
2.5 GB EIDE drive
100 Mbit bus-master Ethernet adapter
100 MBit switch for interconnection

I believe the original project was started by CESDIS at NASA Goddard.
The implications of this project are intense. Two of the fastest clusters
(LANL and Caltech), have sustained over 1 gigaFLOPS for around
$50,000-$65,000 a cluster. That's _each_ cluster doing 1+ gigaFLOPS not
both tied together (although that has been done and I imagine it was
fast). Donald Becker is one of the individuals involved in the project
and some of his network card drivers for Linux came from the Beowulf
software. Look at for more info

Now the software to do this is free (Linux, the Beowulf package), the
hardware is the everday PC, the only (somewhat) out of the ordinary
component is the Fast Ethernet and appropriate hubs. Anyone with enough
money can build one of these. Can you imagine how many keys this thing
could search in a second (DES, RC5, IDEA, whatever)?


Stuart Stock	
Systems/Security Administrator
Gundaker Realtors			       "Blowing a buffer as we speak"