High performance computing on FreeBSD

Danial Thom danial_thom at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 6 09:53:46 PST 2006

--- "O. Hartmann" <ohartman at uni-mainz.de> wrote:

> Dear Sirs.
> FreeBSd is now since 1996 my companion in
> scientific computing and 
> related server systems and also my favorite
> operating system for every 
> network stuff, firewalls and desktop systems I
> ever used.
> Now going ahaed with 64Bit, FreeBSD 6.X has
> been canceled for desktop 
> systems due to the lack of a working JAVA in
> native 64Bit and especially 
> a working native 64 Bit OpenOffice environment.
> Nevertheless, the experience of our group and
> especially of mine with 
> several flavours of Linux, used at our computer
> center and its network 
> performance and stability in comparison to
> FreeBSD's over the same time 
> period let me tend to ask for a FreeBSD based
> high performance computer 
> cluster more than such one founded on a Linux
> distribution. But there 
> are some open issues and those need to be
> discussed deeper.
> First targets SMP/Node performance. I was very
> curious about SCHED_ULE 
> when introduced in FreeBSD 5.X and was said to
> deliver a performance 
> boost on SMP boxes. I'm still waiting for that
> to come true, every SMP 
> scaling benchmark that has been taken in our
> computer center said Linux 
> has the better SMP performance (on the same
> Opteron hardware, but I do 
> not have specific details about that, sorry).
> Next point is the intercommunication of nodes.
> Infiniband or with 
> special Hypertransport coupplings nodes will be
> able to communicate very 
> fast. GBit LAN will be the least option, so the
> question is whether 
> plans for or ready solutions for the node
> connections are underway.
> The last question refers to Fortran. Well, most
> of our scientists still 
> work with Fortran77 or Fortran90/95 and it is
> hard to bring them towards 
> C/C++, so the existence of good Fotran compiler
> will be essential. GCC 
> 4.1/4.2 isn't standard in FreeBSD 6.X but many
> of other FreeBSD users 
> told me they use the port's gcc 4.X very
> successful. But I feel better 
> when the new GNU compiler collection will be
> the standard for FreeBSD. 
> This may sound weird for some of yours, but I
> like the ease of upgrading 
> software in FreeBSD which has reached a very,
> very high standard over 
> the past 10 years (and it isn't comparable to
> jarsh  weirdness I 
> experienced with Linux, Solaris or Windows).
> So, utilizing standard 
> ports and the base compiler collection gives a
> very stable and high 
> quality platform - in my opinion.
> All right, this above mentioned fundamentals
> should be the basis for a 
> small cluster system for numerical research.
> I still looking for benchmark tests, pro and
> contra regarding BSD/Linux 
> (except the existence of better compiler
> software for Linux) and the 
> state of development of high performance node
> interconnect and 
> designated driver software.
> Target hardware will be a four or six node
> Opteron/Athlon64 platform 
> with dual socket/dual core chips, with 4 or 8
> GB local RAM and 200 GB 
> local SATA disk drives, but main disk array
> will be RAID system attached 
> via GBit LAN or, if possible, faster. The big
> question will remain in 
> how the nodes should be interconnected and what
> kind of OS will be able 
> to handle a specific interconnect
> (HTX/Infiniband).
> In the case my questions are to unspecific or
> naiv, please excuse that.
> Oliver

Freebsd 5+ is a much different animal designed by
different people than previous versions, so be
careful about your expectations in terms of
linear expansion. Lets let them figure out the
fundamentals before asking them to become the
greatest thing you've ever conceived. They're
having enough trouble getting rid of the GL and
getting back to where they were in 4.x
performance-wise without having to worry about
scenarios that < .1% of their user base is
concerned about.

Get the baby to fly safely before you worry about
breaking barriers. Otherwise you just get a big


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