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Coupling PC based commodity technology with distributed computing methodologies provides on important advance in the development of single user dedicated systems. Beowulf is a class of experimental parallel workstations developed to evaluate and characterize the design space of this new operating point in price performance. A key factor determining the realizable performance under real world workloads is the means devised for interprocessor communications. A study has been performed to characterize a family of interconnect topologies feasible with low cost mass market network technologies. Behavior sensitivities to packet size and traffic density are determined. Findings are presented which compare more complex segmented topologies to the earlier parallel "channel bonded" scheme. It is shown that in many circumstances the more complex topologies perform better, and in some circumstances software routing techniques compare favorably to more expensive hardware switch mechanisms.
Date of Conference: 6-9 Aug. 1996