[Beowulf] The True Cost of HPC Cluster Ownership

Rahul Nabar rpnabar at gmail.com
Tue Aug 11 20:30:39 PDT 2009

On Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 11:16 AM, Joe
Landman<landman at scalableinformatics.com> wrote:
> There is a cost to going cheap.  This cost is time, and loss of
> productivity.  If your time (your students time) is free, and you don't need
> to pay for consequences (loss of grants, loss of revenue, loss of
> productivity, ...) in delayed delivery of results from computing or

(1) Why always consider it a "loss" of your student's time? I was one
such "student" think there is enormous learning potential here. Of
course, my systems never did match the uptime / performance of a
"turnkey" solution but the skills learnt in setting one up are rarely
gained otherwise. At a university research is one goal; but learning
is definitely another.

(2) A key problem that I don't know how to work around for turnkey
solutions: "How do I pharase the contract and performance gurrantee so
that I get the vendor to do all the things that I want?"

Many of us run codes that are not very high volume nor very
standardized. Everybody wants to tweak and do something new.
Especially in research. In a such a scenario I don't want the vendor
to "just give me boxes with an OS" but also get my code installed,
compiled, running and optimized. Plus schedulers and some such. Not
just install them but set up fairshares that reflect user situations.
Most "turnkey" options seem to do just fine for the early parts (as
far as I can see) but those are the easy steps. The problem is that ,
by their very nature, the later steps are harder to "define". And when
a problem lacks definition "turnkey" solutions are hard to spec.

What good "in house" sys admin manpower does is handle the hairy
issues of the latter steps.  And once you invest in developing (or
training or hiring) good quality sys-admins then taking intelligent
decisions about selection, installation, and commissioning are easy
enough for the well-trained guys anyways!

And if you don't invest in good-quality internal computer guys then
the vendors are gonna take you for a ride all the time!


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