EXTREME Overclocking  - Building A Diskless Folding @ Home Farm Article - Page: 1
Home | Reviews | EOC Forums | File Downloads | RealTime Pricing Engine | Folding Stats Contact Us

Building A Diskless Folding @ Home Farm

Project: Folding @ Home
Date Written: November 25, 2002
Written By: Jason Rabel



No doubt you have heard of the Folding @ Home project, which has been going on for well over a year now. The theory is the client uses your computer's idle CPU cycles to fold proteins to help find medical cures. There are statistics for each individual & team (if you decide to join one) showing how much work has been done, and overall rank. This healthy bit of competition has led people to dig up and recycle whatever working piece of PC equipment they can find to "fold".

As a folding farm starts to grow, just like in a corporate network you start to experience growing pains and management of all the machines can become a real nightmare. Each machine running its own OS and just folding seems simple enough, which it can be, however the model can be simplified down even more. When I was making folding machine I would try to dig up any hard drive I could that was about 500MB or bigger for whatever bargain price someone was willing to accept. Usually they would run fine for a few weeks then die, or just act up randomly. Needless to say this was a real pain.

By setting up folding machines to boot over the network, it eliminates the need for a hard drive, and even a video card. Not only does this save you $$$ money $$$ by not needing as much hardware (which is always good), but it also reduces the amount of power consumed (another bonus), and reduces the amount of heat generated (because you are consuming less power). Another BIG reason to boot from a common file system like this is that it greatly reduces the effort required to manage & update the systems.

Looking at the picture below, in a nutshell, this is what I have done at home. I have created a separate network for my folding farm, which is tied into my existing network so the clients have internet access (to send & receive work).

*Side Note: At first I had everything on one subnet, but that meant disabling the broadband router's DHCP server & setting my regular work machines with static IPs. That had to be done because you can only have one DHCP server on the network, otherwise problems can occur. This was a real pain since my network is ever changing, plus I wanted my farm to be a little less obtrusive. So instead I decided to create a separate network just for the farm, and the folding server uses IP Masquerading to route packets between the two networks, much like your broadband router routes packets between your home network and the Internet. The only downside is you need a separate hub / switch for the farm, however I think a cheap 10Mb hub would be more than adequate.

This guide was written with a lot of help from a few other sources, with two big ones being key in my success. The first of course being the LTSP documentation, which is also available in other languages. The second source was from a diskless boot setup for a Prime & SETI "monster" farms. My main motivation for writing this guide is to clear up some of the parts that the other ones were a bit fuzzy in, or completely omitted information. If you feel that a certain part of this guide is a little light on information, I suggest checking those links for more info first. Also some parts in this guide I tried to provide links to other sites that had specific info that would be helpful, like the IP Masquerading site.


What is needed:

To start out, you will need the following:

  • A PC with a hard drive & two NICs - This will be the "Farm Server"
  • At least one PC with a single NIC and a video card in it (for testing, afterwards you can remove the video card) - These will be the "Farm Clients"
  • A switch or hub, and enough cable to hook up everything
  • A copy of your favorite Linux distro (that is on the LTSP supported list), some LTSP files, and the FAH client (more details on these later)


Latest Reviews
Most Downloaded Files
Recently Added Files
Compare Prices On Top Brands!

Intel Processors
Core i7 - Haswell
i7-4770K  i7-4771  i7-4790  i7-4770  i7-4790S  i7-4770S

Core i5 - Haswell
i5-4670K  i5-4690  i5-4690S  i5-4590S  i5-4570  i5-4460  i5-4590  i5-4440S  i5-4430  i5-4440

Core i3 - Haswell
i3-4340  i3-4370  i3-4350  i3-4360  i3-4330  i3-4130T  i3-4160  i3-4130  i3-4150

AMD Processors
Vishera 8-Core AM3+
FX-9590  FX-9370  FX-8370  FX-8370E  FX-8350  FX-8320  FX-8320E

Vishera 6-Core AM3+
FX-6350  FX-6300

Kaveri 4-Core FM2+
A10-7850K  A10-7800  A10-7700K  A8-7600

Video Cards
nVidia GeForce GTX 900 Series
GTX 980  GTX 970  GTX 960

nVidia GeForce GTX 700 Series
GTX 780  GTX 760  GTX 750

AMD Radeon R9 Series
290X  290  285  280X  280  270X  270

AMD Radeon R7 Series
265  260X  250X  250  240

Search By Brand
ASUS  Diamond  eVGA  Gigabyte  MSI  PowerColor  PNY  Sapphire  Visiontek  XFX  Zotac

PC Memory

ASUS  ASRock  Biostar  ECS  eVGA  Foxconn  Gigabyte  Intel  MSI  Shuttle  Supermicro  Tyan 

Hard Drives & SSDs
Corsair  Crucial  Fujitsu  HGST  Intel  OCZ  Samsung  Sandisk  Seagate  Western Digital

Copyright ©2000-2016 EXTREME Overclocking. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer of Liability - Privacy Policy