[Beowulf] How Can Microsoft's HPC Server Succeed?

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Fri Apr 4 05:22:08 PDT 2008

On Thu, 3 Apr 2008, Kyle Spaans wrote:

> On Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 7:39 PM, Chris Dagdigian <dag at sonsorol.org> wrote:
>> spew out a terabyte per day of raw data and many times that stuff needs to
>> be post processed and distilled down into different forms. A nice little
>> 8-core box running a shrink-wrap HPC product with a single support contact
>> could find a nice little niche in non-datacenter areas where significant
>> compute is needed nearby some other sort of dedicated instrument or device.
> ...
> On Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 6:44 PM, Greg Byshenk <gbyshenk at byshenk.net> wrote:
>>  a business will also have to find
>>  (and pay) someone to build and maintain the cluster.
> Forgive me perhaps for being naive, but why can't a knowledgeable
> teenager / college student be paid ~$10/hour plus on-call time to do a
> setup like this? Presuming they only need to hire someone to do
> setup/administration/support (and not the actual programming itself).

For parts of the beowulf "revolution", this is close to what happened --
opportunity cost time, no professional support.  However,

   a) That doesn't work for corporations or big research computing groups
at Universities or for University research programs where the primary
researchers aren't computer geeks; and

   b) You are off by an order of magnitude in commercial rates for this
sort of professional support.  Hourly rates range from a barebones
minimum of perhaps $20/hour plus benefits for somebody with skills at
the level you describe (who simply wouldn't do for anything but a tiny
cluster in a non-complex environment) to $75-200/hour for offsite
pro-grade management and/or consulting.  Onsite professionals make from
$50K/year (for a fairly young, not yet terribly experienced) to perhaps
$80K/year to do actual hands-on sysadmin and network engineering in a
University, with the range being (correct me if I'm wrong, people) $75K
to $150K/year for corporate, with the upper bounds of both ranges held
by people who are also managers and who run junior sysadmins in a group
of some sort.

Offsite is much more expensive, STARTING at hourly rates corresponding
to the $150K/year for a really good full time employee.  Consultants are
typically real experts, although there as always there is considerable
variation, caveat emptor etc.


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Robert G. Brown                            Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
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