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The popular Beowulf clusters are only one implementation of compute clusters. Despite its popularity, it is a very limited solution that does not address all computing needs. Compute clusters built with Sun hardware and software pick up where the Beowulf solution falls short. They subsume the Beowulf capabilities and extend them to meet the demands of your environment.

Building an optimal cluster is a complex task. This article described how to determine the optimal cluster solution for an organization, and how it can be built. The first challenge is to make the hardware framework, including compute nodes, network, and common services such as file and licenses scalable to fit all types of applications. The second, and more complicated, challenge is to make the software framework manageable and usable as a single resource. A special focus on the management of operating system, patches, applications, licenses, hardware resources, jobs, and users is needed. Development and support of all of the components by a single vendor is a definite advantage.

The most important consideration, however, is for organizations to use all of the computing resources currently available before they invest in new equipment. This goal can be achieved quite easily with available tools at no cost, and can greatly increase the productivity of the engineering community within an organization.

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