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Definition: Beowulf

Using several small computers to provide the computing power of one large computer. A Beowulf cluster uses several off-the-shelf PCs connected via Ethernet to solve problems that would normally be handled by a supercomputer. Designed for high speed rather than redundancy, the first Beowulf system was developed by a contractor to NASA in the mid-1990s.

Unix Based
Unix variants such as Linux and FreeBSD are typically used as the operating system in a Beowulf cluster, and parallel operation is provided by available software in the Unix community that manages message passing and memory. Access to a particular PC in a cluster is provided by Telnetting to the machine over the network, as most of the PCs in the cluster do not have display adapters.

In order to run effectively in a Beowulf cluster, applications must be able to split the data into parallel chunks that can be acted upon simultaneously. See Telnet, NOW project and Millennium project.