Top 500 trends

Florent Calvayrac Florent.Calvayrac at
Tue Nov 26 07:48:57 PST 2002

Robert G. Brown wrote:

> It would be lovely if time, CBA, and Moore's Law were prominently
> associated with project proposal and approval, IF our goal was really to
> Probe the Secrets of the Universe most efficiently.  Of course, our REAL
> purpose is to Have A Job probing those secrets, and imagine the pain if
> I were told "sorry, we can do your Monte Carlo computations now at a
> cost of $50K/year for eight years or wait until year seven and complete
> them in year eight for $100K total, and you'll just have to wait".
> Multiplied by thousands of the nation's top University researchers.
> I personally think that we'd be a bit better off as a country if we sort
> of split the difference -- recognize that our real goal is supporting
> the people and the infrastructure, and spending a bit less on ginormous
> supercomputers whose primary benefit is that they provide us with the
> answers to questions of interest to (and understandable by) perhaps a
> few hundred of the humans on the planet.  That is NOT to say that those
> answers aren't important to pursue -- I am a scientist and in hot
> pursuit myself -- but I question the wisdom of spending quite as much as
> we do to get these answers "right now" without the perspective
> associated with Moore's law and the real goal of stretching out human
> support anyway.

As always, your demonstration is coherent, fun and convincing, but you 
forget :
-that a cluster built of COTS can be transformed into a lot of desktop 
PCs 3 years after its building, saving 30 % of the cost

-it's maybe not worth building clusters with a thousand nodes, but one 
with, say, 16 or 32 nodes can be very interesting at least for teaching 
purposes, as it is way cheaper than a supercomputer. Students in 
engineering are now routinely confronted
to parallel computers when on a "real job" : finite-elements packages or 
fluid dynamics codes are parallelized nowadays, and for, say, an 
automotive company, it is interesting to complete a serie of numerical
crash-tests in the next month rather than the next decade. The same 
holds for drug developement : I am happy that IBM spends billions on
"Blue Gene"  if it saves 5 years in Alzheimer or Creutzfeld Jacob
disease cure.

Florent Calvayrac                          | Tel : 02 43 83 26 26
Laboratoire de Physique de l'Etat Condense | Fax : 02 43 83 35 18
UMR-CNRS 6087         |
Universite du Maine-Faculte des Sciences   |
72085 Le Mans Cedex 9

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