About the Debian Clusters Project

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Note about the Debian Clusters Project from the Project Lead, Kristina Wanous


When I first started working with clusters, I had to climb a technical learning curve before I could really start utilizing and understanding the hardware and software I was putting together. Looking for written and online resources, I mostly found that those who needed to know already did, and that many resources are written for those already "in the know," at least partially. There's a lot of information to be gleaned from old newsgroup and mailing list archives, for those with the patience to look.

However, one of the problems with putting together knowledge this way is that, investigating installing MPI or LDAP, it's often distribution specific. Debian has its own, non-Red Hat way of getting things done, a lot of the resources out there are for Red Hat or at least specific to something other than Debian. These are great for general background knowledge but don't help in the specifics of installing and configuring for Debian.

This begs the question, why use Debian? Simply put, it's accessible. As a free (as in speech and beer, in this case) open source project, it offers an inexpensive alternative to other Linux distributions that come packaged with support fees. Debian supports all the functions and features necessary to build and maintain a working cluster, and this project means to demonstrate that. Further, Debian is a great operating system in general for people who'd like to learn more about Linux or clustering utilities. Its flexibility allows it to be used by everyone, from people who want to build a cluster in their basement to those who want production clusters.

This project is particularly geared toward those who would like to build a cluster for education or scientific research. However, it takes some assumptions about users for granted, including basic Linux and Debian knowledge (see the Basic Linux Skills page for clarification and pointers to resources). This is not meant as an introduction to Linux or Debian - thankfully, there are plenty of helpful tutorials and guides already in existence on those topics.

The assembly here is a compendium of the knowledge that I was able to gain from books, websites, and those who have helped me with this project.

I would especially like to thank a few individuals who have helped me. Most of the basis of the information here, as well as a lot of the specifics, have come directly from one professor's experience – Dr. Paul Gray, my mentor here at the University of Northern Iowa – and I could not have taken on this project without him. He's also provided me with all the hardware, software, and technical support necessary for this endeavor, as well as being a staunch advocate. (Check out his project, the Bootable Cluster CD, which I also help with.) I would also like to thank Professors Charlie Peck from Earlham College and Tom Murphy from Contra Costa College for being my “mentors away from home”. Their experience and support have added to this project in countless ways. Thanks also to my fellow students Jessica Puls, Alex Lemann, and Kevin Hunter for their help with various subjects. Finally, for all of his interest in the project and constant encouragement, thank you to my good friend and employer Todd Thomas.

Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are always welcome and appreciated. Please send them to kwanous <at> debianclusters <dot> com

     -- Kristina Wanous

This project not affiliated with Debian. However, the Debian project is whole-heartedly endorsed by the maintainers of this site!

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