A group of lab employees including William W. Hargrove and Forrest M. Hoffman applied for a grant to build a cluster in 1996, but it was rejected. Software was patterned after the Beowulf project pioneered by NASA. They decided to build a cluster anyway, using desktop personal computers that had been discarded as being too slow. The name was derived from the story of Stone soup. The developers used freely available and open source software such as Linux operating system, the Parallel Virtual Machine toolkit and the Message Passing Interface library.
By early 1997 the first applications were running on the cluster. By May 2001 it had 133 nodes. They included Intel 80486 and Pentium-based machines and a few DEC Alpha workstations. Low-cost Ethernet networking was used for interconnection instead of any special-purpose network. The cluster was the subject of an article in Scientific American magazine in 2001. Many applications were developed on this system that could then be deployed on other, faster clusters. The stone cluster was no longer in use by August 2003. This approach was used as a model for other educational cluster projects.
- William W. Hargrove, Forrest M. Hoffman and Thomas Sterling (August 16, 2001). "The Do-It-Yourself Supercomputer". Scientific American 265 (2). pp. 72–79. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- William W. Hargrove and Forrest M. Hoffman (1999). "Cluster Computing: Linux Taken to the Extreme". Linux magazine. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- Forrest Hoffman (August 27, 2003). "The Stone SouperComputer - ORNL's First Beowulf-Style Parallel Computer". Project website. Archived from the original on November 21, 2003. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- Joel Adams; David Vos (March 2002). "Small-college supercomputing: building a Beowulf cluster at a comprehensive college". Proceedings of the 33rd SIGCSE technical symposium on Computer science education 34 (1). doi:10.1145/563517.563498. ISBN 1-58113-473-8.