"Wesleyan's Cluster Computers"
Hartford Courant (03/01/04); Frahm, Robert
Using Beowulf cluster architecture developed by NASA in the mid 1990s,
Wesleyan University physics professor Reinhold Blumel and then-student
Vasilios Hoffman constructed a supercomputer, WesWulf I, using
obsolete, discarded desktops. The cluster's success prompted the
development of a second-generation supercomputer, WesWulf II, that
currently uses about 90 cable-linked processors, which Blumel built
with the assistance of Danish graduate student Thomas Clausen.
Beowulf-based clusters are now found at many universities, research
labs, and government agencies; MIT computer science and engineering
professor Charles E. Leiserson says the clusters' appeal comes out of
their cheap construction costs. Clausen notes that costs for WesWulf II
were dramatically lowered by opting to use the open source Linux
operating system rather than a proprietary operating system. Hoffman
reports that the cluster can perform approximately 70 billion
calculations each second. Blumel calculates that WesWulf II's cost thus
far is around $50,000, which is probably only a third of the cost of a
similar commercially-bought supercomputer. Clausen is employing WesWulf
II to simulate how microwaves affect hydrogen atoms, while a Wesleyan
astronomy professor is using the cluster to model galactic collisions.