The Berkeley Network of Workstations (NOW) project seeks to harness the power of clustered machines connected via high-speed switched networks. By leveraging commodity workstations and operating systems, NOW can track industry performance increases. The key to NOW is the advent of the killer switch-based and high-bandwidth network. This technological evolution allows NOW to support a variety of disparate workloads, including parallel, sequential, and interactive jobs, as well as scalable web services, including the world's fastest web search engine, and commercial workloads, such as NOW-Sort, the world's fastest disk-to-disk sort. On April 30th, 1997, the NOW team achieved over 10 GFLOPS on the LINPACK benchmark, propelling the NOW into the top 200 fastest supercomputers in the world! Click here for more NOW news. The NOW Project is sponsored by a number of different contributers.

Project Overview

The Berkeley NOW project is building system support for using a network of workstations (NOW) to act as a distributed supercomputer on a building-wide scale. Because of the volume production, commercial workstations today offer much better price/performance than the individual nodes of MPP's. In addition, switch-based networks such as ATM will provide cheap, high-bandwidth communication. This price/performance advantage is increased if the NOW can be used for both the tasks traditionally run on workstations and these large programs.

In conjunction with complementary research efforts in operating systems and communication architecture, we hope to demonstrate a practical 100 processor system in the next few years that delivers at the same time (1) better cost-performance for parallel applications than a massively parallel processing architecture (MPP) and (2) better performance for sequential applications than an individual workstation. This goal requires combining elements of workstation and MPP technology into a single system. If this project is successful, this project has the potential to redefine the high-end of the computing industry.

To realize this project, we are conducting research and development into network interface hardware, fast communication protocols, distributed file systems, and distributed scheduling and job control.

The NOW project is being conducted by the Computer Science Division at the University of California at Berkeley.

The core hardware/software infrastructure for the project will include 100 SUN Ultrasparcs and 40 SUN Sparcstations running Solaris, 35 Intel PC's running Windows NT or a PC UNIX variant, and between 500-1000 disks, all connected by a Myrinet switched network. Most of this hardware/software has been donated by the companies involved. In addition, the Computer Science Division has been donated more than 300 HP workstations which we are also planning on integrating into the NOW project.

The Case for NOW presents a more detailed overview of this project. Click here for a list of NOW papers.