[Beowulf] Is comaring HPC to Formula1 a bad idea?

Mark Hahn hahn at mcmaster.ca
Thu Apr 18 06:42:57 PDT 2013


> http://www.isc-events.com/isc13/isc_blog/items/is-comparing-hpc-to-formula1-a-bad-idea.html

I think there probably is an F1-like HPC subculture, though I would argue
that it's relatively fringe.  the top fringe, of course, but fringe none 
the less.  mostly bespoke hardware - even in cases where the parts are 
legitimately off-the-shelf (say, Stampede), they're considereably special
(Phi is definitely not yet an off-the-shelf product.)

normal HPC is really production stock car racing (straight from the showroom,
perhaps with passenger seats removed and with better crash restraints.)

I'm skeptical about whether any tech from tier0/1 machines does actually
trickle down to the lower "normal" tiers.  infiniband is by far the most 
exotic component in normal HPC - let's call it the turbo of interconnects,
since mundane clusters will be using dramatically cheaper Gb.  and running
with a non-custom distro, everything compiled with working-class GCC,
storage on proletariat SATA disks.  hmm, this transformed from a racecar
to political/class metaphor...

the F1 metaphor also brings to mind old-fashioned supercomputing, and 
doesn't provide much help in explaining that all modern HPC is about 
trying to utilize herds of oxen (or chickens).  the previous discussion
(in the guise of Cloud) seemed also to be about whether your herds/flocks
are harnessed together or individually.  yes, a Cray reference, so there!


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