[Beowulf] First 96-Node Desktop Cluster Ships

Jim Lux james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Wed May 4 07:06:10 PDT 2005

It's an interesting concept. I spoke with the folks at Orion last year, and
they've identified that "zero infrastructure hassle" aspect as a key point.
Has to plug into a single wall socket, for instance. The other thing is that
they're pushing it as a minimal adminstration widget, which may or may not
come off. That is, there's no expectation that the end user/owner will be
rolling their own kernel mods, swapping processors or disks, etc.

Maybe the conceptual model is to compare it to what desktop PCs, or maybe a
Sun, were in the 80s, relative to a VAX or mainframe down the hall.  With
the former, you decide when to turn it on or off, you decide what runs on it
and when.  With the latter, you compete for resources with all the other
users sharing the investment.

The question will be whether enough useful application software is available
in a "orion compatible" form so that the casual user doesn't get sucked into
an admin morass. I would think that if Orion and the vendors of products
like HFSS or ADS or NASTRAN (all big computationally intensive FEM style
codes) get together to provide a "turnkey" installation with significantly
higher performance it will fly.

If it can make it possible to change the modeling usage paradigm from
"batch" to "interactive" then it will have real value.  Rather than think in
terms of "build model, submit job, do something else while waiting for
results to come back" if you can think in terms of "Build model, wait 30
seconds, look at results, change parameter, wait 30 seconds, look at
results", you'll have a different style of use.

I noticed that when computers got fast enough to do Numerical
Electromagnetics Code (NEC) models in seconds, as opposed to minutes, my
design style changed.  Instead of spending a few hours writing scripts to
fire off a whole systematic batch of runs to do a parametric study
(typically overnight) and then look at the plots the next morning, I'd
manually optimize the design by iterating the parameters.  In these sorts of
things, the "goal function" is sort of ill defined: I want a reasonably good
impedance match, and no huge side or back lobes, where "reasonably good" and
"huge" are sort of fuzzy concepts.

Jim Lux

----- Original Message -----
From: "Eugen Leitl" <eugen at leitl.org>
To: <Beowulf at beowulf.org>
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 3:29 AM
Subject: [Beowulf] First 96-Node Desktop Cluster Ships

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