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Requirements in short

  • Machines with network cards and PXE capabilites
    • if not activated as the boot method by defaut, PXE must be configured so in the machines bios setup utility
    • if some machines do not provide PXE boot, look at etherboot
  • Machines connected to a same LAN, on which you are authorized to run a PXE infrastructure
    • if planning to install ComputeMode on a bare LAN, it will provide the PXE infrastructure (DHCP server, ...).
    • if planning to install ComputeMode on a production network, beware of any other PXE instrastructure that may already running to avoid conflicts. Please read Installing ComputeMode beside other DHCP/PXE infrastructures
  • One machine to act as ComputeMode server
    • either a server of a workstation (depending on the size of the cluster you wish to build), to install ComputeMode server system (GNU Linux Debian system + ComputeMode software)
    • or if you cannot get a machine to install the ComputeMode system on it, a machine where you can install VMWare, and run ComputeMode VMWare appliance

Requirements in depth

Client requirement

Processing nodes will be booted remotely when required by the ComputeMode Server. This process involves running a disk-less Linux (through a network boot) on each of these PCs. Few requirements are made for these PCs, but of course the faster the machines, the higher the computing power will be:

  • Pentium-class processor
  • 80MB of RAM: do note this is the minimum value to make somethings and that this value will have to be increased to cope with your application needs
  • 100 Mbps Ethernet : Remote-Wake-Up (a.k.a. Wake-on-LAN) support is not mandatory but it would make a great addition
  • PXE compliance: this feature makes a PC able to network boot. PXE capability is supported on most PC with an integrated LAN network card. It has been integrated by major vendors' corporate PCs since 1999 (and is required by PC98 and PC99 recommendations from Microsoft and by the Wired for Management Initiative from Intel).
  • PXE should be enabled on each client node through their BIOS setup. Network boot is usually enabled by default by PC manufacturers, but you should check that each PC is properly PXE-enabled. The PXE/Network boot must be configured as the first boot device in order to fully take advantage of ComputeMode boot mechanism. Some systems also activate PXE boot when the system receives a Wake-on-LAN message.

Network architecture requirements

The current version of ComputeMode relies heavily on the use of PXE (also known as network boot protocol) to setup disk-less distributions. Thus, if your network already uses PXE for other purposes, or if your workstations are too old and do not support PXE boot, this may be a show-stopper for this current version - feel free to ask us for guidance in such a case as there may be fine tuning or alternatives out of the scope of this manual.

CM also uses DHCP but it is configured so as to be transparent and not interact with your current set up.

Besides, the following constraints should be enforced
  1. All ComputeMode nodes should be in the same broadcast range. For instance, having all the machines connected on the same switch, sharing the same subnet or VLAN will be sufficient. This is because ComputeMode relies on the DHCP/PXE protocol, which requires the server to be able to receive Ethernet frames broadcasted on the LAN by any of the Processing Nodes.
  2. PXE should *not* be in use on your local network. PXE is sometimes used by corporations that use it for deploying new Operating System images to network PCs. If PXE is already in use on your network, the PXE from the ComputeMode Server will conflict with the corporate PXE. You should check with your network administrator whether PXE is on your network or not. In such a case however, advanced configurations of the PXE environment may be setup, adapted to your local needs, using for instance an advanced PXE bootstrap chaining mechanism. Please see Installing ComputeMode beside other DHCP/PXE infrastructures.

To check whether PXE is in use on your premises, boot a PC and let it proceed into PXE network book (this should happen at the end of its BIOS bootstrap) - of course, the ComputeMode server has be disconnected during that test. If the PC exits without finding any PXE server, then there are chances that no PXE server is connected to your local network.

Access nodes requirements

Some hosts of your network will be used to access the ComputeMode system. For instance, you will need to access the ComputeMode Web interface located on the ComputeMode server. You will also need to access the system to submit computational jobs and retrieve their results. Such operations may be done using any PC from your network (including processing nodes).

The ComputeMode server embeds a minimal X display with a web browser, but as it is a server, it will most likely be more comfortable to access it from your office instead of the server room !

The requirements are rather pieces of advice
  • a standard-compliant web browser supporting CSS2 and JavaScript: if JavaScript is not supported, every functionality is still available but in a less user-friendly manner.
  • a 1024x768 display (at least) - using cmwebadmin on a smaller screen will not be quite user-friendly
  • a ssh client: several are available at no charge and under Open Source licenses (see OpenSSH or PuTTY). Commercial ssh clients are also available. If you do not intend to either submit job or administer the CM server, you do not need this client software.
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