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Compaq Offers Free Beowulf Test Drives 67

waite writes "The Compaq Testdrive program is now making available a Beowulf cluster of XP1000s running Alpha Linux. If you sign up for the testdrive program you can register for an account on the cluster to try out your applications in this cluster environment. There is no charge for this program. Compaq is making this available to Open Source developers. No strings, catches, or hooks of any type."
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Compaq Offers Free Beowulf Test Drives

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  • by Aphelion ( 13231 ) on Thursday December 30, 1999 @07:57AM (#1432651) Homepage
    One should hope they've minimized some of the problems I experienced when they first started this program. Of them, the most common was simply 'connection refused.' I'm not sure if it was the Slashdot effect or something I was missing.

    And now the obvious question.. Why Alphas? Are Beowulf clusters possible on Intels?
  • I know all of my testing will be done using that. Forget the C:) All in all this awesome for major companies to do stuff like this. Kind of like when they donate the stuff to colleges for learning purposes. It does nothing but promote a company as a good guy and gets people learning their stuff so they will be influenced if they have a choice to buy. Great job Compaq.
  • I'm not a fan of Compaq Computers by any stretch of the imagination, but I have to say I think what they're doing with the Test Drive program is fantastic. An absolute no-charge way to give Linux a spin, and even try out your own applications. It may not be the total answer to convincing corporate America that Linux is ready, but it's certainly a good start.

    On a related note, I got a FedEx package today, and inside was my Compaq LINUX license plate that I got free from the first test drive. Good stuff!

    The plate reads:

    Compaq Solutions Alliance Test Drive

    L I N U X

    Linus is a Registered Trademark
    of Linus Torvalds

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • I received an anonymous tip that Santa had just been hired at Compaq and even though it's almost a week late, he decided to give us another gift to play with when we get bored with our other new toys. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

  • Ob Stupid Comment:

    I wonder what a beowulf cluster of these things... oh, wait... never mind ;-)
  • They don't seem to be restricting the participation in this to developers - they just make you answer a lot of questions to get a temporary account.

    I signed up for one, because I'm interested to try it out, but I'm somewhat worried that this could degenerate into a new type of contest - the "Hack Compaq's boxes" contest. I hope the script kiddies stay away...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Tha slashdot effect has nothing to do with "connection refused". Not really sure but possibly it was due to file locks during the registration process. But of the more than 45,000 folks that have signed up I would say that most connection problems were fixed very promptly. One other comment is that in many cases "connection refused" was due to pilot error such as trying to use protocols that I am not allowing for.
  • Beowulf clusters are indeed possible on Intels. However, as any true gearhead will tell you, an Alpha processor will spank the pants right off any intel ever put together (or is it just me?)

    if (OS==Linux && segfault) {edit_source()} continue;
    if (OS==Windows && illegal_operation) {
    return Linux;
  • Beowulf clusters are usually Intel-based; They're 'commodity copuercomputers' after all, and Alpha's are hardly 'commodity'.

    Compaq is showing the Alpha Beowulf bacause, as their manufacturer, they want their flagship product out there representing them to the masses.

    Plus, an Alpha cluster is so much cooler than just another cluster of PIII's...
  • The fact that they're confident enough in their product to actually allow people who need performance machinery to test the potential capacity of a Beowulf/Linux/Alpha cluster before they buy has got to go a long way with people who make purchasing decisions for large systems.

    Taken along with their previous test drive offers for other [Alpha based, of course] systems and their recent comparison of the Alpha and Itanium architectures, they seem ready to go for Intel's throat when traditionally Intel-centric systems make the plunge into the 64 bit world. If nothing else, their willingness to make public offers like this shows a growing commitment to open-source *nixes.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is from the DEC part of Compaq. Doesn't anyone here realize that Compaq is trying to become a big player in the Enterprise like IBM and HP and are pushing Alpha like crazy here and in the scientific community. IBM is one of the biggest WinNT supporters. That doesn't mean they don't also push AIX, AS400, Java, etc. Compaq isn't just PCs anymore.
  • Linus is a Registered Trademark of Linus Torvalds

    Linus or Linux?


  • They're also a heck of a lot better for scientific research scenarios (simulations).
  • I would venture a guess that they want to show people what a cluster of Alphas can do -- we know what a farm of alphas can do (see also: Digital Domain -- they did some of the Titanic rendering)
  • *click* *pause* *reload* *pause* *reload* *reload* *reload* *reload* *reload* *pause* Welcome to the compaq test drive signup form. blah blah blah username blah blah password blah blah email address blah .. (root) *clickity-click-click* (aadvark) *click* phone 555-1212*clickity-click* *SUBMIT*......

    connection refused *reload*
    connection refused *reload*
    connection timed out *reload*
    500 internal server error *reload*
    *reload* *reload* *reload* *reload* *reload*
    DO YOU AGREE TO THE CONDITIONS FOUND HEREIN, blah blah blah blah, sell your soul, blah blah blah blah...

    connection refused *reload*
    connection refused *reload* *reload* *reload*
    An e-mail is immediately being sent to which you may use to access the compaq server(s) you have chosen at blah blah blah

  • Of course they are. Heck, it's even a lot cheaper, as evidenced by the falling prices on CPU s these days. The thing is, Alphas are a lot faster than Intel CPUs, as a 600Mhz Alpha currently outperforms even a 750Mhz Athlon.
    It's more expensive, but it's faster, and since Compaq wants to promote their own Alpha processors, it might just be a marketing tactic.
  • Beowulf clusters can be made of any platform Linux (or other flavors of unix) runs on. The software needed to run a Beowulf cluster, PVM or MPI, are open source. Compaq used Alpha because it's there flaqship CPU and it's the highest performance CPU available. For more info, see the Beowulf Project [].
  • They FedEx'ed me a "JAVA" license plate -- what a rip off :-) I guess they ran out?
  • looks like these are behind a firewall.. can't get any kind of net access outgoing. Would be nice too.. I could store a lot of stuff on that 60 gig drive :)
    [tiny@spe110 tiny]$ quota
    Disk quotas for user tiny (uid 1535): none
    [tiny@spe110 tiny]$ df
    Filesystem 1k-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
    /dev/sda1 253871 66916 173848 28% /
    /dev/sdb2 2157444 20 2047832 0% /scratch1
    /dev/sdb7 2324680 20 2206572 0% /scratch2
    /dev/sda7 2064208 473112 1486240 24% /tmp
    /dev/sdb8 2634320 1061200 1439304 42% /usr
    /dev/sda8 3308472 96 3140316 0% /usr/local
    /dev/sda6 1032088 22564 957096 2% /var
    spe81:/home 61222740 4741980 53370780 8% /home

    I got on a 4x500mhz Alpha box.. 975.17 bogomips is not too shabby! Now if only that guy would quit using up 99.9% of the cpu with his "makecover" process....
  • Is how does one go about getting their slice of the cluster running away on RC5 keys? That was the first thought that went through my mind, when I saw the article.
  • by Darlok ( 131116 ) on Thursday December 30, 1999 @08:46AM (#1432673)
    Does anyone know what scheduler / load balancer / etc etc etc that they're using? As of roughly 6 months ago, getting a Beowulf to be tuned enough to actually show significant performance increases compared to manually firing off independent processes on each machine was extraordinarily difficult. I never actually managed it.

    We had a small cluster of Alpha PC164's and a much larger of Pentiums. We "upgraded" from a Beowulf-style system to a Mosix [] system, and performance shot straight through the roof. Unfortunately, Mosix doesn't run on Alphas (yet), so we bit the bullet on 'em and have a bunch of glorified paperweights.

    I'd love to get back on the Linux train with the Alphas, but Beowulf seemed to have too many if's and require far more effort than it returned benefits. Has this changed, and how?

  • heh, the login message is:

    Be nice and keep that rc5 / seti stuff off my network.....
    Thank you and enjoy.

    Besides, without outgoing net access what good would it be?
  • I've also done this before, if you register you get your choice of three decrotive license plates. There's LINUX, TRU64, and one other one, i got my linux one via fedex today (os. they don't charge for shipping)
  • My plans over the next few months involve tring to figure out Slash [] and see how hard it would be to get another news/discussion group (poetry not geeks) going. The plans were to put Redhat on a cheap new machine in my workroom and get to work but this strikes me as a good (and cheaper) alternative. Is anyone else out there planning on fiddling with Slash?
  • Please keep in mind that we (formerly DEC) were never in bed with Wintel. ----Mike
  • Thank you for the informed comment. ----Mike
  • But he is only using one cpu. There are three more. I know as I put them in myself. Certainly if there is a reason to kill his process I can do so. ----Mike
  • You can ftp as much as you want onto the systems. I guess I don't know what you mean by "net" access. ----Mike
  • Well send me a mail and you can get on and see for yourself. -----Mike
  • Plus, an Alpha cluster is so much cooler than just another cluster of PIII's...

    A 21264 uses about 50 watts. A Pentium III is low power enough to be used in laptops (which the Alpha hasn't done since a special version of the 21064 many years ago). Multiply this by the number of machines in a cluster, and I think you will find that the Pentium III cluster is significantly cooler than the Alpha cluster and will require significantly less cooling for the room it operates in.

  • Ive been trying to get Rob to release the latest version of the slash code, the stuff at that link is pretty old, but it seems he wont. (he put me in his spam filter !!)
    Dilbert: I have become one with my computer. It is a feeling of ecstacy... the blend of logic and emotion. I have reached...
  • We have had that image here for since June, ever since they bought us.
  • Did you mis-understand, or are you joking?
  • Got mine too, except they sent me the JAVA one instead of the LINUX one by mistake.

    Oh, well; it was free, I'm not gonna say a word to 'em about it.
  • What do you mean by that? This is a program that is being sponsored by our engineering group and has nothing to do with marketing or Compaq Classic (houston) ----Mike
  • Thanks for the informed comments. Yes indeed DEC lives on. (even if the logo says CPQ) ---Mike
  • You might want to ask... They gave away these Linux - Live Free or Die" [] at the ALS this year. Looks mighty sporty on the car...
  • Could we load some distributed projects on this guy, so in the 'downtime' we have it cranking away a few billion RC5 or DES decrypts?

    Oh yes, how beautiful indeed.
  • I think this guy just wants to be uberleet and say "y4h d00d, im websurf1ng fr0m a be0wu1f b0x!" or something. It completely fits the Slashdot "Beowulfs are cool, I bet you could play a really mean game of Quake on one!" mentality, completely disregarding the fact that along with a Beowulf's high bandwidth it has *very* high latency; it's NOT for interactive processes but for *offline* processing.

    Then again, what's with geeks who build a Beowulf machine just for mass-MP3 encoding and the like? You'd be better-served by just having independent systems and avoid the overhead of PVM or whatever. Unless you're doing large-scale numerical analysis or a lot of very intense rendering (with PVM/POVRAY), a Beowulf is completely, utterly *pointless*.
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

  • It's actually a very interesting experiment.

    Using Alpha processors let's Compaq try out an industrial strength B cluster, something that could run an enterprise, serve as a superserver or predict the weather.

    Beowulf was originally conceived of as a way to crank out supercomputer performance out of cheap, old PCs. This ups the ante, since Compaq is putting it together out of supercomputers to begin with. Interesting indeed.

    Further, by openning it up to the general public gratis, I'd be interested what it is that they're REALLY testing. The performance of the cluster, or the security of their OS tweaks... Hmmm...
  • Compaq is the only major PC manufacturer I've seen, that offers the Athlon chip in their desktops.

    Anyone out there running Linux on the K7?? How's it stack up? How about for Beowulf?
    • Further, by openning it up to the general public gratis, I'd be interested what it is that they're REALLY testing. The performance of the cluster, or the security of their OS tweaks... Hmmm...

    See disclaimer below. I'm not in any way involved with the test drive program.

    While I'm sure the people who are running these machines are interested in performance stats and security issues with putting the testdrives out to the public, I think the real purpose of this is Marketing.

    There have been several stories about various of the Compaq testdrive programs here, so they've succeeded, to some extent, in getting the word out.

    I think they are trying to overcome people's perception that Alpha is too much of an odd, niche, architecture and won't really run your applications. It's not true and you can get on one of these machines and prove it for yourself.

    They are also trying to get the word out about the fact that Alpha runs Linux (including Beowolf clusters), FreeBSD, Tru64 UNIX and of course, my personal favorite OpenVMS.

    Disclaimer: Yes, I work for Compaq, No, I'm not speaking for Compaq.

    -Jordan Henderson

  • Well we would prefer that you didn't. I spend a great deal of energy trying to keep distributed apps off of our servers as we are tryiong to keep the cycles free for developers. -----Mike
  • Possibly you are correct. But we do sell them as a custom system and there are apps out there that geeatly benefit from such an environment. Now if you really want to see power, you should try one of our Sierra CLusters running Tru64 UNIX with a Quadrix switch. ------Mike
  • Hm. All of the boxes seem to be unreachable. I just tried telnetting in from a few machines, and get no response.
  • Possibly your firewall wont let you out? I can assure you that right now the testdrive network has many many users that would disagree with you that the network is unreachable. ----Mike
  • Nana, *can* run slower.
    The newer ones with Geyserville will run at a lower clockspeed if the comp is running on batteries. Otherwise, they run at full speed (ie, socket power; electrical ones, that is)
  • by Skinka ( 15767 ) on Thursday December 30, 1999 @12:06PM (#1432703)
    No strings, catches, or hooks of any type.

    Oh great, how am I supposed to get anything done without using strings, hooks or (try) catches..

  • Yes that's right Santa is in the house! Actually I have nbeen here for almost three years but it has taken a significant amount of kicking and screaming to make the testdrive program a reality. Shall I tell you about the new toy I am adding on Monday?.....Or would you like to wait till next Christmas? -----Mike
  • I am not trying to test anything with this program. I have systems/clusters in our labs that make this look like a toy. I am merely trying to make serious compute power available to the masses so that more can see how good our products are in the Linux space. -----Mike
  • If you want to know the truth about why I am making this available is because I believe in our product and i want others to know how good it is as well. I am an engineer and our group is not in any way associated with "Marketing". Lets face it, if this was a marketing effort it would be kept a secret. -----Mike
  • Now, now.. We have a few more days before we rip into TransMeta. ;)
  • I signed up with the testdrive program back in september and have been using it since for alot of coding. Quite cool indeed.

    but, more importantly, how do I get the free stuff? - I here mentions of license plates, toys, etc. here on /. but I see no mention on the testdrive web site.
  • They have the testdrive program for many other things besides Beowulf.

    The site actually has a pretty complete list of test platforms. While there may be some sort of hidden agenda, which I doubt, the main purpose is to show the buyer just how much better the alpha performs.

    I've found the program useful to check out Tru64 v5 before we upgrade the ~ 40 AlphaServers that we run from v 4.0F

  • So, I applied for a Compaq Testdrive account about a week and a half ago. I applied mostly just for the thrill of being logged into a quad Alpha box, but also because I'd seriously like my next machine to be non-x86, and Alpha is an obvious choice. However, I was quite surprised and confused by a number of things.

    First, it took almost 5 minutes before I gota logon prompt. I only waited that long because I forgot about the fact that I was connecting! I was very surprised, when five minutes later, I noticed a login: prompt pop up in an open xterm.

    Second, how exactly am I supposed to test this machine out? It has no network access --- obviously I'm not going to reenter all the source to stuff that I'd like to look at, and I can't download it. I understand their need for security --- throngs of seventh-grade wannabes would be flocking in to abuse the system if it did allow outgoing connections, but how then am I supposed to test my software on it? Now, granted, I don't really feel the need to test my software --- I believe it works. I just wanna see it honk around on a quad Alpha ::-).

    If anyone knows, I'd be much obliged!

    Love Ross Vandegrift
  • I am not sure by what you mean "no network access" To date there have been more than 45,000 users coming onto the testdrive systems. There is no reason why you can't "put" your files here. As far as the long connection time it was due to a script kiddie who wrote a cron to call "id" over and over which tied up the network. As you mentiond......we are trying to make it available to all but some just want to try to ruin it for the others. Please send me an email to if I can be of any more help.

"Plastic gun. Ingenious. More coffee, please." -- The Phantom comics