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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.


Currently, BORG6 is awaiting a BIOS update to bring it into line with the other 3 nodes. It appears the latest version of scientific linux runs from a USB stick so flashing with the script from IBM should work, so long as the i386 libraries are loaded on said USB stick.

After flashing, the next stage will be to organise the disks in the head node and test the nodes to make sure they are all linked.


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

They're currently labeled as BORG1 through BORG6 from bottom to top.


Currently connected to the SPC1601 PDU, we need a better way of adding accounts.

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.



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

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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