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I have three 2009-era Xserves that I need to assemble into a compute cluster/render farm for Blender. The Xserves do not have any operating system on them. What OS should I use for best results with Blender? Do I need OS X Server or can I get away with the client version or even Linux?

I've never assembled a cluster, nor do I have any server experience to draw from.

Hardware:

  • 3 Xserves (specifically, the Xserve3,1 model)
  • 5 CPU (20 cores total): 2.26 GHz quad core Intel Xeon 5500 series “Nehalem” processors (two CPUs each on two Xserves)
  • 6 GB RAM on one of the dual CPU servers, 3 GB RAM on the remaining two Xserve
  • no Fiber Cards or Raid cards to complicate driver selection
  • no PCI cards
  • each server has a built-in NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 with a mini DisplayPort output and 256 MB of video RAM
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Let's edit this into something usable like picking a rendering packag that's compatible with your CPU availability. –  bmike Jun 6 '12 at 22:13
    
How is it difficult to know what I am saying. I need to know how to set up my xserves basically as one machine so that I have more computing power for rendering in a 3d program called blender? –  Stephen Jun 6 '12 at 22:20
    
@Stephen I've done some cleanup on your question. I've a few questions for you and we'll see about migrating your question to Super User where I think it'll be more likely to get a good solution. • I assume the servers have all their hardware parts (hard drives, CPUs, network cards, etc.). • Do you have the networking equipment (routers/switches, cables)? If not, add a section to your question asking what should be obtained. • Please add if the Xserves have any other hardware included: PCI-Express cards (Fibre Channel, RAID card, etc.). • How much RAM do the machines have? –  CajunLuke Jun 6 '12 at 23:07
    
@bmike What do you think about migrating this to Super User? Can you think of anything else to include that would be useful to answer the question? –  CajunLuke Jun 6 '12 at 23:08
    
Ok I appreciate your time, I was a little frustrated because I am so new to the server end of things and so I was not quite knowing how to word my question. Any way I have 3 servers. Server 1 has a single 2.26 GHz quad core intel processor and 3 gb of ram, server 2 has a dual 2.26 GHz quad core intel processor and 3 GB of ram, and server 3 has a dual 2.26 GHz quad core intel processor and 6 GB of ram. They do have all of there hardware and I do have the networking equipment. None of the servers have PCI cards or raid cards. Please let me know if you need any other information? –  Stephen Jun 6 '12 at 23:22

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you read the system requirements for Blender, it's pretty wide open. You could run Windows XP or newer, Mac OS X version 10.5 or newer and of course you could run Linux or perhaps even FreeBSD.

So, it's really your call which OS is easiest for you to maintain. For free (or pretty near to free) you could get a used copy of Snow Leopard or Leopard for probably $15 or even call Apple or go to an Apple store with the serial numbers and see what OS was shipped with those Macs. You might have to pay a shipping fee, but they will mail you replacement DVD for the OS.

You certainly don't need server for this software (reading the wiki linked in the question - it's clear the software handles all the clustering needed as long as all the devices are on the same network and can talk).

It depends on how expensive your time and what OS you like best to run and install. Mac is clearly the easiest since all the drivers you need will be vetted and ready to go. Once you have the software installed and running - should you find in discussions with the blender community that another OS handles a specific task better - you could always jump ship to that OS later.

Looking over the Xserve specs, you might not be able to run 10.5 but unless you have a big reason to not upgrade - I'd run the latest client version of Mac OS that will run on that hardware.

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So I am wanting to run OS X lion server. Do I need to install that system on all three Xserves? –  Stephen Jun 7 '12 at 2:05
    
@Stephen Yes. Each machine will need OS X installed and working. Since they're nigh-identical, you should be able to set one up the way you want it, verify that it works, and simply clone the OS from that one to the others using Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper!. (Assuming you're using OS X - I don't know how well Linux or Windows would do when cloned like that.) –  CajunLuke Jun 7 '12 at 2:11
    
@bmike According to Mactracker, they shipped with 10.5.6 Server Unlimited. –  CajunLuke Jun 7 '12 at 2:13
    
Well the guy I bought them from wiped the hard drives clean and never installed anything more on them. So once I have OSX lion server on them, then where do I go from there to set them up so they work like one machine for my rendering? I guess I mean what software is going to allow me to do what I am wanting to do? –  Stephen Jun 7 '12 at 2:32
    
yup - get lion or any other normal OS X installed (non server is fine) and once the apps are running, you can make a job network render rather than just one Mac render. Think like iTunes playing music from another Mac - no server needed when the program can talk amongst themselves and split the work. Also - prepare yourself for some loud machines. Very, very loud blowers on those Xserve. –  bmike Jun 7 '12 at 3:43

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