Jean-Pierre Deschamps Who am I ?

Personal Project – Hydra

Projet Hydra's header

Hydra Project History

Since I was young, I've always loved computers. What made me dream was those big rooms full of powerful computers. Few years ago, one of my dreams was to have my own server. I then invested on used equipment bought on eBay to get my first dual processor server. The first has been a dual Intel Pentium 3 processor running at 933 MHz. However, this server has never been in service.

After that, I replaced my trusty desktop with a laptop. This is how my powerful ( for the time) Intel Pentium 4 HT was converted into a server. It is now known as Heracles. It remains the most reliable machine of the lot for a few years. There will also be many changes over the years. Its now equipped with a DangerDen liquid cooling system. This enabled it to achieve stability with the monstrous power of 4.6 GHz against the 3.2 GHz base. It will also be equipped with a secondary power supply for the high-powered electric pump fitted into it later. The name Heracles takes its origin from a time when only the number of MHz were used to determine the power of a processor. It was brute force. Like the mythological hero, he was endowed with an uncommon raw power.

One server is good, but it was only a common "desktop". My dreams for "real servers" had not yet met. Thus, in trying again and again on eBay. I made the discovery of what would become Cerberus. A beautiful Dell PowerEdge 6300, with all of its processors as well as half of its memory capacity. It was a beast with 4 Intel Xeon Pentium 3 clocked at 550 MHz. It can accommodate up to 4 GB of memory ( 16 x 256MB ) and has a triple redundant power supply. For a mere $80 USD, it was mine. However, I had neglected one thing: the weight. So one fine morning I received a semi-trailer delivering me on a wooden pallet my 115 pounds "computer". Thus Cerberus became my first real server, first with Windows Server 2003 and after that Debian. Today, it is retired and was part of a NAS. The name comes from the mythological "dog" Cerberus : black with three heads. Cerberus server has a black paint as well as four "brains" and an impressive size compared to animals of the same species.

In February 2012, our parallelism class took a visit to the supercomputer Mammouth hosted at Sherbrooke University. I was like a child on Christmas Eve. It's hot, it's loud enough to be wearing ear protection, but mostly I'm surrounded by hundreds of powerful computers. Following the visit, I linger with the leaders of the Mammouth and I heard that they are putting out the oldest of the three clusters from service. Individual servers will then be sold. I immediately saw my chance. Thus, in early summer, I bought 8 Dell PowerEdge SC1425 servers fully equipped and ready. The remaining question was: what to do now all these computers?

More recently, Cerberus arriving at his final retirement, I acquired a new server. A Dell PowerEdge 2850 and Dell PowerVault storage unit 220S complete my cluster as a management node. This latest machine is called Minotaur and offers all the storage space required and redundant to protect my data.


In order to unify the whole thing, I first tried to use Oracle VM and Oracle VM Manager. The idea was to experiment with a virtualization center. This would share all the material on multiple operating systems of all kind. So, I could share equipment between Windows and Linux entities depending on the availability of softwares. However, I never managed to really get anything working with it. First a hellish struggle to configure and install the 8 compute nodes. Then a struggle to put the manager on Cerberus. Apparently impossible to manage a x64 cluster with x86 manager. Not having x64 compatible processors on Cerberus made me finally gave up the idea.

Lately, I came across the Kerrighed project website. Kerrighed is an operating system for single system image clusters. Kerrighed offers a view of a unique SMP machine on top of a cluster of standard PCs. In my case, I have a single Debian installation with 16 processors, 32 cores and 64 GB of RAM. Pretty impressive to have it at home, not to mention the heat that prevails and the electricity bill.

Today, this small cluster is installed in my lab at Université Sherbrooke . It's house for collection of operating systems deployed ​​with PXE protocol and used in my projects and research : MPI, OpenCL, SnuCL, VCL, MySQL Cluster and many others ...