Document Type

Working Paper




cluster management software, network-centric computing, RISC microprocessors, cluster computing




Computer Sciences


In the past decade there has been a dramatic shift from mainframe or ‘host-centric’ computing to a distributed ‘client-server’ approach. In the next few years this trend is likely to continue with further shifts towards ‘network-centric’ computing becoming apparent. All these trends were set in motion by the invention of the mass-reproducible microprocessor by Ted Hoff of Intel some twenty-odd years ago. The present generation of RISC microprocessors are now more than a match for mainframes in terms of cost and performance. The long-foreseen day when collections of RISC microprocessors assembled together as a parallel computer could outperform the vector supercomputers has finally arrived. Such high-performance parallel computers incorporate proprietary interconnection networks allowing low-latency, high bandwidth inter-processor communications. However, for certain types of applications such interconnect optimization is unnecessary and conventional LAN technology is sufficient. This has led to the realization that clusters of high-performance workstations can be realistically used for a variety of applications either to replace mainframes, vector supercomputers and parallel computers or to better manage already installed collections of workstations. Whilst it is clear that ‘cluster computers’ have limitations, many institutions and companies are exploring this option. Software to manage such clusters is at an early stage of development and this report reviews the current state-of-the-art. Cluster computing is a rapidly maturing technology that seems certain to play an important part in the ‘network-centric’ computing future.

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