1U P4 Systems

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Tue May 22 14:47:52 PDT 2001

On Tue, 22 May 2001, Martin Siegert wrote:

> You are so right. Unfortunately not many manufacturers/distributers
> have noticed this. I have been searching for a 1U or 2U case for a beowulf
> cluster on the web. This has been a totally frustrating experience:
> 1) I don't want to spend $200 US ($300 CDN) or more on a case.

Martin, I'd have to echo this frustration.  Pretty much all the XU cases
I've found are more than $200, some quite a bit more.  Then you've got
to buy the rack.  Compared to $50-60 for a standard mid-tower case this
is painful beyond measure when buying in volume, especially when the
total node cost might only be $600-750 outside of the case.

I regretfully opted for shelves of midtowers for my latest effort(s) --
one can achieve something like (within a factor of 2, surely) of the
packing of 2U cases -- I can fairly easily get 16 nodes in a 1-1.5 m^2
floorspace footprint (depending on how you like to count the gaps
between units) without going over two nodes high and could double that
with tall shelves.

It's not as pretty and it is a bit more work to put together neatly, but
I still assembled a 16 node cluster in about four hours total work
including assembling the heavy duty steel shelving.  The shelving itself
cost only $50 total (plus another $50 or so for cable ties and surge
protectors and miscellany to make it look nice) saving me about $2500.
That's serious money for six hours of work (allowing for the time to
drive to Home Depot and buy the shelving:-) -- 3 nodes worth of money.
I'll make the time back in the first DAY of fulltime operation.

Case vendors take note: there is some insanity here.  Perhaps a 1U case
is tricky, but a 2U case is pretty nearly a desktop case with rack
mounts on the side.  In all cases they are basically sheetmetal boxes
with a motherboard mount, a power supply, and a place to hang a disk and
a place to poke a card or three out.  No way that 4x is a reasonable
multiplier for the retail cost -- it just holds down your volume in the
beowulf and server market.

I'd like to see 1U or 2U cases selling for a competitive $50-75 (where
the margin allows for a bit of extra cooling for the 1U cases).

But I don't think I'm going to anytime soon...:-(


Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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