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Model IBM 3950 M2
Sub-category Systems
Status Under Construction
Last updated 24 May 2021 22:02:24
Accessories Bits
Training requirement yes
ACnode no
Owner Hackspace
Origin Donation
Location Basement rack
Maintainers Oni

Borg is a stack of 4 linked machines that combine as one, resulting in half a terabyte of RAM and 64 Cores. It runs Linux and is designed for High Performance Computing on computationally expensive tasks.


The BORG cluster is now complete. The system is running ubuntu 12.04 LTS. We have 4 units in place (the maximum amount) with linux 12.04LTS installed with the usual hackspace credentials.

There are still some tasks to perform before the system is hackspace friendly. See the todo list below.


We are naming this machine after Anita Borg. Also the Borg.

They're currently labeled as BORG1 through BORG6


Access is through ssh. This system requires physically plugging in the power cable and launching the complex through the RAS controller on Borg5

Steps to boot the cluster

  • Firstly, locate the power cable. There is a blue, 16Amp socket on the wall. Nearby will be a power bar with a matching 16Amp plug. Attach this to the socket. Borg should power up
  • The lights on borg should be FLASHING green. A slow flash on the power buttons. DO NOT press any of these buttons. All the machines need to be brought up via the RAS
  • With a webbrowser on your laptop, attached to the hackspace network, navigate to (I believe this is the right IP address :S)
  • This is Borg5, the headnode - you should see a webpage asking for username and password. See below for these.
  • Navigate to the last item on the left - RAS Partitions.
  • You should see the partition on the right as a block diagram. All the nodes should be connected and in Blue. Find a button marked something like "boot partition". Press it.
  • All the borgs should start whirring, more lights will come on and the power lights will turn green
  • Wait about 10 minutes

Borg 5 usually has an IP address assigned to it dynamically which is annoying. You can find out this IP address by pulling out the screen terminal keyboard thing on the rack, selecting the screen for Borg, and logging in with the hackspace default root password. Once you have the IP, you can login with SSH remotely. You should have access to all the CPUs and memory in all 4 borg machines.

Specs, Layout and Status

IBM 3950 M2

The list reflects the layout in the rack.

  • BORG5 - 4 CPUs, 128GB RAM - SN 99C5979 - 1.16 BIOS - HEAD Node
  • BORG3 - 4 CPUs, 128GB RAM - SN 99C5980 - 1.16 BIOS
  • BORG6 - 4 CPUs, 128GB RAM - 1.16 BIOS
  • BORG4 - 4 CPUs, 128GB RAM - SN 99B3501 - 1.16 BIOS
  • BORG1 - 3 CPUs, 8GB RAM
  • BORG2 - 3 CPUs, 8GB RAM

BORGs one and two are lower spec and cannot be linked to the cluster (max of 4 nodes) so should be cannibalised for spares and disposed of.

IP - RAS - head node


The RAS II is a separate control system that is setup in the bios and accessible as soon as a BORG unit has power (i.e, if the green light is flashing OR solid). Using a web browser head to either

Username USERID password PASSW0RD


In order to link upto 4 borgs together we need to use the special cables. http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/redbooks/pdfs/sg247630.pdf - page 235 shows how this is done to create an SMP style set of nodes.



Running Debian

  • Needs the non-free bnx2 firmware on a flash drive for the install to work, (could try to add it to the install initrd)
  • Something something IBM Calgary IOMMU something something leads to DMA errors and the LSI MegaRaid raid card dosn't work, booting with "iommu=soft" makes it work but may not be ideal. search https://www.kernel.org/doc/Documentation/x86/x86_64/boot-options.txt for iommu
  • The incantation seems to be: iommu=soft,calgary megaraid_sas.msix_disable=1

Upgrading the bios

Do a diskless boot, the go do Debian and then "Jessie amd64 Diskless for BORGs", log in as root (password 'root', this diskless setup is for testing only!), then:

cd ibm-bios/z/ ./lflash64

This is an upgrade to bios version 1.16

We also need to upgrade:

The RSA II thing: https://www-947.ibm.com/support/entry/portal/docdisplay?lndocid=MIGR-5086633 The FPGA (in the scaleXpander?) The BMC

We might be able to do it individually, or perhaps use the IBM UpdateXpress thing, which needs SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 x86-64 or Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 x86-64.

We need to reset all the bios etc settings to there defaults.

link dump

good megaraid cli guide:



Energy Consumption

Meter in-line

Testing with a normal, common-o-garden multimeter inline with the plug, on all 4 BORG units we have:

  • 1.28amps at 240v - standby
  • 7.8 amps peak on start
  • 5 to 6 amps normal operation
  • 9.48 amps with all 64 processors at 100%

Blender Tests

Recent tests comparing Borg3 with AWS , rendering 30 Frames of a small Blender Scene with Blender 2.76 and maxing out the processors:


  • $0.520 per On Demand Linux c1.xlarge Instance Hour at 12 hours
  • Cost is roughly £4.60 at current exchange
  • Spot instances are possible with Brenda or similar - at $0.07 the cost would be roughly 53p


  • £0.12p per Kilowatt Hour
  • With all 16 Cores operating at 100% Borg was drawing 560Watts
  • To render the same scene took 206minutes
  • Total Cost 23p

Borg (being a server) could add substantially to our electricity costs. To help this we can offset some of it by the retiring of other machines in the space. It has also been agreed that if it takes up more than 275W regularly then a decision about Borgs future will have to be made. If it goes over 300W we will have to re-think our strategy. These figures are a maximum and equate to about £27 per month in electricity costs. The power consumption will be regularly measured and anyone is welcome to report power consumption levels.


The Rack in the basement.


  • Work out whats up with the 4th missing raid controller
  • Play with the raid management thingy
  • https://github.com/chicks-net/megamap
  • Work out what disks we have and where they are and what they do
  • sdc and sdd are now free. (was a vmware install for emf)
  • Re-install with debian?
  • Get it under ansible (with nfs home dirs and ldap users)
  • remove the FC cards we don't need.
  • channel bond some of the nics
  • do something with the 10Gb Nic's?!?!?

Potential uses

  • Rendering video and 3D
  • Bio-informatics number crunching (bio-hackers?)
  • simulation
  • realtime ray-tracing
  • Radio FFT decoding in real-time (Cubesat related)


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