[Beowulf] Re: [APPL:Scitech] Re: Gigabit switch for XServe cluster (grid) computer (fwd from acaird at umich.edu)

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Wed May 11 11:32:34 PDT 2005

----- Forwarded message from Andrew J Caird <acaird at umich.edu> -----

From: Andrew J Caird <acaird at umich.edu>
Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 12:30:43 -0400
To: keith Farnsworth <k.farnsworth at qub.ac.uk>
Cc: Scitech Apple List <scitech at lists.apple.com>
Subject: Re: [APPL:Scitech] Re: Gigabit switch for XServe cluster (grid)
User-Agent: Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 (X11/20041206)
Reply-To: acaird at umich.edu

On 05/11/2005 12:16 PM, keith Farnsworth wrote:
>Yes indeed, I intend a private network with the head node providing the 
>a single link to the outside world on its second ethernet connection 
>(router solution). I am glad the private (cluster only) network can be 
>level 2 unmanaged. University computer support will have nothing to do 
>with me as long as I use Apple kit.
>This switch business seems very complicated!

It is complicated.  And expensive.  I agree with everything Jay 
mentioned, and I would add Force10 to the list of vendors.  We have 
high-end switches with 100s of ports with a per-port cost of nearly 
$1000 - not quite as much as a decently equipped XServe, but it's into 
the same order of magnitude.  I'll emphasize what Jay said:

If your application stresses the network, you can have the fastest nodes 
in the world and it can all be worth very little if you have a slow or 
flaky network.

The network is more important than most people realize.  We've tested HP 
gigabit against Force10 gigabit, and the Force10 is more than 50% 
faster.  Just because the words on the spec sheets match up doesn't mean 
you'll necessarily get what you expect.  For big clusters, it's worth 
testing with the gear you're interested in.

Both Cisco and Force10 make nice 48-port stackables with per-port costs 
in the sub-US$200 range that actually perform the way you want and 
expect them to.

Also, keep expansion in mind: clusters look inexpensive because you can 
"always add a node for US$3000", but you need to consider the network in 
there, and that can mean buying a new switch for the next node, and may 
mean introducing an unacceptable physical boundry into your cluster network.

Good luck.
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