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Revision as of 18:03, 13 May 2015 by Oni (talk | contribs) (→‎BIOS)
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Model IBM 3950 M2
Sub-category Systems
Status Under Construction
Accessories Bits
Training requirement yes
ACnode no
Owner Hackspace
Origin Donation
Location Basement rack
Maintainers Oni, Tgreer

Borg is a virtual host server to be used to give members access to virtual machines in the space and ultimately replace many if not all the functions of Babbage.


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.


IBM 3950 M2

  • BORG1 - 3 CPUs, 8GB RAM
  • BORG2 - 3 CPUs, 8GB RAM
  • BORG3 - 4 CPUs, 128GB RAM - has bios A3E170AUS-1.16
  • BORG4 - 4 CPUs, 128GB RAM
  • BORG5 - 4 CPUs, 128GB RAM
  • BORG6 - 3 CPUs, 128GB RAM



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


With dmidecode

* Borg3 Version A3E170AUS-1.16
* Borg5 Version 1.16
* Borg4 Version 1.11


In order to link upto 4 borgs together we need to use the special cables. - 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 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: 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:



It is reasonable to say the birth of Borg has been long and difficult, concern has generally revolved around the 3 areas:

  1. Usage
  2. Energy Consumption
  3. Location

Each have been discussed on the mailing list but for summary.


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

The main issue of course - is it worth spending the time linking them all or just keeping one with some method of spinning it up and down?

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.

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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