Commodity supercomputing, was: Re: NDAs Re: [Beowulf] Nvidia, cuda, tesla and... where's my double floating point?

Gerry Creager gerry.creager at
Mon Jun 30 13:10:50 PDT 2008

Toon Moene wrote:
> Jim Lux wrote:
>> Yep.  And for good reason.  Even a big DoD job is still tiny in 
>> Nvidia's scale of operations. We face this all the time with NASA 
>> work.  Semiconductor manufacturers have no real reason to produce 
>> special purpose or customized versions of their products for space 
>> use, because they can sell all they can make to the consumer market. 
>> More than once, I've had a phone call along the lines of this:
>> "Jim: I'm interested in your new ABC321 part."
>> "Rep: Great. I'll just send the NDA over and we can talk about it."
>> "Jim: Great, you have my email and my fax # is..."
>> "Rep: By the way, what sort of volume are you going to be using?"
>> "Jim: Oh, 10-12.."
>> "Rep: thousand per week, excellent..."
>> "Jim: No, a dozen pieces, total, lifetime buy, or at best maybe every 
>> year."
>> "Rep: Oh...<dial tone>"
>> {Well, to be fair, it's not that bad, they don't hang up on you.. 
> Since about a year, it's been clear to me that weather forecasting 
> (i.e., running a more or less sophisticated atmospheric model to provide 
> weather predictions) is going to be "mainstream" in the sense that every 
> business that needs such forecasts for its operations can simply run 
> them in-house.
> Case in point:  I bought a $1100 HP box (the obvious target group being 
> teenage downloaders) which performs the HIRLAM limited area model *on 
> the grid that we used until October 2006* in December last year.
> It's about twice as slow as our then-operational 50-CPU Sun Fire 15K.
> I wonder what effect this will have on CPU developments ...

I'm running WRF on ranger, the 580 TF Sun cluster at  I can 
complete the WRF single domain run, using 384 cores in ~30 min wall 
clock time.  At the WRF Users Conference last week, the number of folks 
I talked to running WRF on workstations or "operationally" on 16-64 core 
clusters was impressive.  I suspect a lot of desktop weather forecasting 
will, as you suggest, become the norm.  The question, then, is: Are we 
looking at an enterprise where everyone with a gaming machine thinks 
they understand the model well enough to try predicting the weather, or 
are some still in awe of Lorenz' hypothesis about its complexity?

Gerry Creager -- gerry.creager at
Texas Mesonet -- AATLT, Texas A&M University	
Cell: 979.229.5301 Office: 979.458.4020 FAX: 979.862.3983
Office: 1700 Research Parkway Ste 160, TAMU, College Station, TX 77843

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