High Performance Computing


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These pages represent a snapshot of our work to December 1998. Much more up-to-date information may be found on our
Windows Clusters site.


The convergence of the high-end workstation and commodity personal computers has been particularly rapid over the last few years. It is now possible to build cheap, powerful supercomputer-level machines using commodity parts at a fraction of the cost of proprietary systems. The Beowolf initiative has concentrated on using Intel-based machines running Linux to provide very cost-effective production machines for a number of applications.

We have purchased a dedicated computational cluster of DEC Alpha workstations. These compete on a node for node basis with systems such as those from IBM and SGI/Cray for many scientific and engineering applications, but by using commodity components the cost is lower by a factor of at least six.

The best value for money clearly lies in this commodity desktop PC technology. Here we can not only take advantage of economies of scale in the corporate market, but also in the rapidly increasing take-up of PCs in the home. Even greater leverage can be obtained by using the DEC Alpha microprocessor. These FORTRAN-optimised chips are priced to compete in the Windows NT marketplace against Intel and offer good price/performance compared Pentium-based systems. The choice of Windows NT is partly driven by the availability of good optimising compilers on Alphas, particularly Digital Visual FORTRAN.

This web site is organised into the following subsections:

  • Hardware, details of our system configuration
  • Windows NT, OS discussions (including Linux)
  • Compilers, for Windows and Linux
  • Networking, fast Ethernet and other interconnect technologies
  • Current Project Status, as of 17 December 1998
  • Links, including our publications and links to Beowolf sites and sites related to the other subsections listed above

Commercial Applications:

PC clusters have more than academic interest. For example, loudspeaker manufacturers Celestion are using clusters of Windows NT PC's. This gives them supercomputer-level resources at high-street prices and the capability to enhance the productivity of their speaker designers. Celestion are being assisted in this work by the University of Southampton iT Innovation Centre.


We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Microsoft Research, MPI Software Technology Inc and 3Com for this work.