Creating a bare-metal cluster from scratch

In today’s world of computing, more and more companies are looking to optimize their hardware by creating bare-metal clusters. Bare-metal clusters are clusters of computers that are stripped down to their bare essentials, meaning that they only have the minimum required software to run the cluster. In this article, we will go through the steps to create a bare-metal cluster from scratch.

What is a bare-metal cluster?

A bare-metal cluster is a group of computers that are stripped down to their bare essentials. This means that only the operating system and the necessary software to run the cluster is installed. Bare-metal clusters are used for various purposes, such as high-performance computing, big data analysis, and cloud computing. In a bare-metal cluster, each computer is known as a node, and each node communicates with the other nodes in the cluster to carry out the workload.

Step 1: Choose the hardware

The first step in creating a bare-metal cluster is to choose the hardware. The hardware requirements will depend on the purpose of the cluster. If the cluster is intended for high-performance computing, you will need high-end hardware with multiple cores, high-speed memory, and fast storage. If the cluster is for big data analysis, you will need hardware that has a high disk capacity and fast disk access. You can also use low-end hardware for less intensive tasks, such as web servers and simple applications.

Step 2: Choose the operating system

Once you have chosen the hardware, the next step is to choose the operating system. For a bare-metal cluster, you will need an operating system that is lightweight and does not consume a lot of resources. There are several operating systems that are suitable for a bare-metal cluster, such as CentOS, Ubuntu Server, and Debian. These operating systems are free and open source, which means that you can download and use them for free.

Step 3: Install the operating system

After choosing the operating system, the next step is to install it on each node. The installation process is similar to the installation process on a regular computer. You will need to create a bootable USB drive or DVD with the operating system, and then boot from it on each node. Once the operating system is installed, you will need to configure the network settings so that the nodes can communicate with each other.

Step 4: Configure the network

The next step is to configure the network. In a bare-metal cluster, the nodes communicate with each other over a network. You will need to configure the network so that each node can communicate with the others. You can use either a wired or wireless network, depending on your hardware and requirements. You will also need to assign IP addresses to each node and configure the network settings, such as DNS and gateway.

Step 5: Install the cluster software

After configuring the network, the next step is to install the cluster software. There are several cluster software solutions available, such as OpenMPI, Slurm, and Kubernetes. These solutions provide different features and functionalities, such as workload management, job scheduling, and container orchestration. You will need to choose the cluster software that is suitable for your requirements.

Step 6: Configure the cluster software

Once the cluster software is installed, the next step is to configure it. This involves setting up the cluster nodes and defining the workload. You will need to specify the number of nodes in the cluster and assign roles to each node. You will also need to define the workload, such as the number of jobs that can be executed simultaneously.

Step 7: Test the cluster

The final step is to test the cluster. You can do this by running a workload on the cluster and monitoring its performance. You can use various tools to monitor the performance, such as top, htop, and nmon. You should also test the cluster with various workloads to ensure that it can handle different types of tasks.

Examples of Bare-metal Clusters

There are many examples of bare-metal clusters being used for various purposes. Here are a few examples:

High-Performance Computing

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, USA, has a bare-metal cluster called Summit, which is one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Summit has 4,608 compute servers, each with two 22-core IBM Power9 CPUs and six NVIDIA V100 GPUs. Summit is used for high-performance computing in various fields, such as energy, medicine, and climate research.

Big Data Analysis

The University of Toronto has a bare-metal cluster called the Niagara Cluster, which is used for big data analysis. The Niagara Cluster has 1,500 nodes, each with two 20-core Intel Xeon Gold 6148 CPUs, 192 GB of memory, and a 480 GB solid-state drive. The Niagara Cluster is used for research in various fields, such as genomics, social science, and natural language processing.

Cloud Computing

The CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) has a bare-metal cluster called the OpenStack Cloud, which is used for cloud computing. The OpenStack Cloud has over 1,000 nodes, each with two 8-core Intel Xeon E5-2650 CPUs, 64 GB of memory, and 2 TB of storage. The OpenStack Cloud is used for research in various fields, such as particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.


Creating a bare-metal cluster from scratch may seem like a daunting task, but it can be a rewarding experience. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create a bare-metal cluster that is tailored to your specific needs. Bare-metal clusters offer several benefits, such as high performance, flexibility, and cost savings. With the right hardware and software, you can create a bare-metal cluster that can handle even the most demanding workloads.

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