So, my school has hundreds of old computers and a few gigabit switches. Coordinating with the head of district for my school, I've been granted permission to make a Beowulf cluster, using one, two or three tutorials.

But, the compute possibilities aren't clearly defined, and I'm confused.

What I know:

  • You can't run GPU dependent games across the cluster
  • You can't run non multi-threaded applications across the cluster

What I don't know

  1. How well programs such as y-cruncher scale
  2. What can run across the nodes
  3. If everyday computing is supplemented (such as opening random apps, password cracking, etc)
  4. If programs such as virtualbox scale across the nodes

1 Answer 1


If you mean by a Beowolf cluster a MAAS cluster, you're on-topic at Ask Ubuntu.

  1. There is a huge difference between multi-threaded and clustered computing. The y-cruncher algorithm is a multi-threaded algorithm and needs shared memory to be able to function so computing π using that algorithm is not easily done on a cluster.

  2. Anything that can use clusterable algorithms. E.g. a bunch of Apache servers or MySQL Cluster will be "easily" scalable on a bunch of old hardware (for a certain definition of "easy").

  3. If your "everyday computing" includes running a web farm: Yes!
    If your "everyday computing" is just using office productivity: Not really...

  4. VirtualBox will not help you: you need the opposite: a cluster OS and a lot of fine-tuning to have the disparate hardware work well together as clusters are normally built using new hardware with identical performance specifications.

    It is easier to have identical/similar machines work together than a 33 MegaHertz 80386 with 1 MegaByte of RAM and a 2 GigaHertz dual-core Intel I3 with 2 GigaByte of RAM…

  • 2
    What do you mean by using it wisely? Please elaborate
    – Hellreaver
    May 21, 2015 at 15:17
  • Better now? Otherwise, ping me in the AU general chat room
    – Fabby
    May 21, 2015 at 15:45
  • 1
    I agree with @Fabby that your life will be easier with identical machines to work with. I do not know how old the school machines are, but your progress will be so much slower if these machines can only boot from floppy drives, and not from bootable CD-Rom.
    – Antony
    May 26, 2015 at 0:37
  • @Antony These machines are mid 2007
    – Hellreaver
    May 29, 2015 at 5:35

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