[Beowulf] Re: GPU boards and cluster servers.

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Tue Sep 9 11:12:02 PDT 2008

On Mon, 8 Sep 2008, Greg Lindahl wrote:

> On Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 02:58:36PM -0400, Prentice Bisbal wrote:
>> I think these trends have more to do with the cheap cost of Dell
>> Hardware and Dell's sales force  and marketing to upper management than
>> they do with any technical advantages Dell has over the competition.
> I was involved in the top 2 Dell systems in the UK. Both were
> competetive bids, with a cluster integrator other than Dell, and Dell
> hardware. So no, marketing wasn't a big driver, but low cost was.

And there's nothing wrong with that.  One thing that is appealing about
Dells in any professional operation is that they usually come with hot
and cold running service, pay for what you need.  If I buy e.g. a Dell
laptop (as I have for six or seven years now) I pay a single, easily
budgeted price and if it breaks (as it has six or seven times now over
the years -- I USE my laptop, run hard and put up wet), a nice man comes
to my house and fixes it on the spot, sitting at my dining room table.
Nearly anywhere else I could by a laptop leaves me with depot repair or

They provide similar levels of coverage on server/cluster systems.  This
can in turn let you prebudget all maintainance costs at the time of
original purchase and be CERTAIN that your cluster or server room will
not require additional emergency repair funds for the next 3-4 years,
the expected useful life of the hardware anyway.  It also saves you
tremendously on your OWN opportunity cost time if something breaks as a
phone call is a lot cheaper than slogging down to the server room,
pulling a box, benching it, and messing with it for a few hours to
figure out which part has gone bad.  At the very least the "few hours"
part can be relegated to somebody else.

This is hardly unique, of course -- penguincomputing.com does as well
and is arguably more reliable out of the box as they tend to use higher
grade parts (from my own strictly anecdotal experience).  But Dells
aren't "bad", and are often cheap(est).  With onsite service guaranteed
and a certain amount of not-in-the-configurator pricing and
configuration flexibility when one buys in bulk, it is by no means
"obvious" that Dells are a poor choice for a cluster or server room, and
I personally think they are an actively GOOD choice for 2-4 laptops (he
says typing this reply into his brand new XPS M1530 1900x1200, 320 GB
HD, 4 GB dual 64 bit core laptop with full accidental damage coverage on
top of regular extended service...:-).


Robert G. Brown                            Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
Duke University Physics Dept, Box 90305
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Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb
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