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Guidelines for Setting Up a Cluster

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(Updated: Dec 2009)

Listed below are some guidelines for setting up a cluster to make it easier to manage and debug.

  • Set up shared home directories. A shared namespace is useful for bringing up Lustre™ builds and collecting logs. The most commonly shared namespace is /home.
  • Use pdsh. This parallel-distributed, multithreaded remote shell enables efficient execution of commands on multiple remote hosts in parallel.
  • Use a regular node naming scheme. A node naming scheme consisting of a short prefix combined with regularly incremented decimal node numbers (e.g., n0001, n0002, etc.) works well with an automated tool like pdsh. Also, machines tend to be used for different roles in a cluster over time, so hostnames based on roles in the Lustre file system (mds, ost, etc) are not always practical. However, documenting how hostnames map to Lustre functions is useful.
  • Use serial consoles. A serial console enables output to be logged for later retrieval in case a problem occurs. It can be provided with a useful front end like conman or conserver. A front end that can send breaks to the kernel's sysrq facility over the serial console is preferable.
  • Send kernel crash dumps and kernel messages to a remote system. Linux provides various tools, such as netdump or netconsole, to capture crash dumps remotely. See Diagnostic and Debugging Tools for more information.
  • Collect syslogs in one place. In addition to collecting logs on a per node basis, collecting syslogs in one location lets an administrator monitor a single log for errors reported to syslog from across the cluster.
  • Set up remote power management. If a machine wedges, it must be possible to reboot it without physically flipping a switch. Various vendors offer serial-controlled power widgets. Power widgets that work with powerman are the most useful. Remote power management is a requirement for doing automated failover (STONITH).
  • Automate node provisioning. Although infrequently used, it's convenient to be able to reimage a node via netbooting and network software installs.
  • Boot quickly. To be able to boot quickly, do the following:
    • Disable non-essential services from starting at boot-time.
    • Minimize hardware checks made by the BIOS.
    • Avoid starting utilities at boot-time that ask for user input before proceeding.