[Beowulf] The True Cost of HPC Cluster Ownership

Douglas Eadline deadline at eadline.org
Wed Aug 12 07:29:43 PDT 2009

> Douglas Eadline wrote:
>> All,
>> I posted this on ClusterMonkey the other week.
>> It is actually derived from a white paper I wrote for
>> SiCortex. I'm sure those on this list have some
>> experience/opinions with these issues (and other
>> cluster issues!)
>>   The True Cost of HPC Cluster Ownership
>>   http://www.clustermonkey.net//content/view/262/1/
> This article sounds unbalanced and self-serving.
> While it I clear that self-made clusters imply added new costs
> in regard of turn-key clusters, they also empower the buyer
> using standard and open solutions by an increased independence from
> the vendor, and increases also its knowledge for future choices.
> This aspect is hard to measure in monetary terms, but certainly very
> important for some users.
> I have  experienced all kinds of clusters (turn-key, mostly
> self-assembled, and partly vendor assembled and tested), and my conclusion
> is that the best is when the user has at least the choice to determine
> the degree of vendor integration/lock-in.   Bad choices occur
> because people are badly informed, and the article is so biased
> that it doesn't improve objective information on this regard, just
> serves as increasing fear and doubt.

A few comments,

First, the paper was originally commissioned by SiCortex. I removed
promotional parts and updated the paper to reflect what I believe
are valid points worth considering when procuring and HPC cluster.
(i.e. I believe informing people about unknown potential costs is
a good thing (tm)) The simple premise is "due to the nature of
clusters, there are costs that were once part of the HPC
purchase price, that are not included anymore and you
may have to absorb the cost"

Second, I did not advocate lock-in of any kind. Indeed, the thing
I like about clusters and open software is there is lock-in
protection. I do suggest that many people have two choices:

1) go at it on your own and understand that it will probably be
a learning experience. It will in all likelihood take longer
than you thought.

2) get qualified help so your cluster is up an running ASAP

I don't favor either case, My intention was to assist those
who do not understand the nature of cluster computing with
some of the issues we have all faced at one time or another.
As far as being objective, I have experienced first hand
all the situations I mentioned.

As far as case 2, there is some form of service lock-in, but
I consider this a good thing. If you can find someone that
keeps things working for you and/or you don't have the time
or personnel and/or you want to focus on science or engineering,
then paying them is not a bad idea. And by the way, this is
normally the case in most industrial settings, plus they need
CYA strategy as well.

Finally, as far as self serving, well I can tell you the phone
is not ringing off the hook. It was not my intention to generate
business from an article on ClusterMonkey. I wish it were that easy.

Finally, because ClusterMonkey.net is an open community site
I encourage you contribute to the conversation.


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