MOSIX: Linux Clusters without the Pain
It seems that everyone today is either running a cluster or wants to run a cluster. One of the more popular operating systems for implementing clusters is Linux. Linux offers the performance and cost benefits that other operating systems such as Solaris and UnixWare can not compete with.
Clustering and its BenefitsA cluster is a series of multiple machines that are designed to work together as one. As an example, you could purchase a 4 CPU machine from Penguin Computing for approximately $20,000, or you could build four separate machines that basically equate to a $20,000, 4-Way SMP machine for $8,000. The upside to a Linux cluster is the ability to build large powerful machines using commodity hardware. The downside is that your applications have to be written with specific libraries such as MPI and PVM.
If you are writing a custom application, using alternate libraries is fine; but what if you are running a stock application such as Povray for 3D rendering? What if you are running a high-end threaded Java servlet application for e-commerce? What if you want to increase the development and decrease compile times of a large project? In all these cases, a linux server cluster can help you out.
Introducing MOSIXThis is where MOSIX comes in. The MOSIX cluster is designed to run like an SMP machine. It utilizes a "fork and forget" method of dealing with large nodes. MOSIX handles the optimizing of the resources across multiple machines.
Installing MOSIXThe MOSIX installation process is very simple. The only real requirement is that the kernel is still a virgin kernel source. In other words, you have a source that is not modified from the original Linux distribution of the kernel. Even if you installed the kernel source from your distribution, I suggest getting a new kernel source from http://www.kernel.org. After unpacking and installing the new kernel source, you can proceed with the MOSIX installation.
The MOSIX installation is based on a file called mosix.init. The file will be in the same directory as the unpacked MOSIX distribution. I was surprised when I executed mosix.init. The program, although terminal-based, is straightforward. The first question it asks is the type of installation you would like to perform. Since I had not installed MOSIX before, I chose the Compile and Install MOSIX from Scratch option.
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