[Beowulf] MS Cray

Gus Correa gus at ldeo.columbia.edu
Tue Sep 16 17:10:59 PDT 2008

Hi Joe and fellow Beowulf fans

Joe Landman wrote:

> Gus Correa wrote:
>> Otherwise, your "newbie scientist" can put his/her earbuds and pump 
>> up the volume on his Ipod,
>> while he/she navigates through the Vista colorful 3D menus.
> Owie .... I can just imagine the folks squawking about this at SC08 
> "Yes folks, you need a Cray supercomputer to make Vista run at 
> acceptable performance ..."

> The machine seems to run w2k8.  My own experience with w2k8 is that, 
> frankly, it doesn't suck.  This is the first time I have seen a 
> windows release that I can say that about.

> The low end economics probably won't work out for this machine though, 
> unless it is N times faster than some other agglomeration of 
> Intel-like products.  Adding windows will add cost, not performance in 
> any noticeable way.

What if performance is not the main goal?
Here is what the article has to say about it:

"Microsoft's strategy - one that no supercomputer maker and no X64 chip 
maker can ignore - is to attack from the bottom, to find those myriad 
new HPC users who never learned Unix, never learned Linux, and have no 
desire to."

There have been several long and heated discussions on this list about
computer literacy and computer education for scientists and science 
Mostly centered on computer languages, not so much was said about 
Unix/Linux proficiency,
bits of shell or scripting language skills, and the rudiments of 
Unix/Linux tools
and programming environment.
I don't intend to reopen them.
However, was Microsoft listening to those discussions?

> The question that Cray (and every other vendor building non-commodity 
> units) is how much better is this than a small cluster someone can 
> build/buy on their own?  Better as in faster, able to leap more tall 
> buildings in a single bound, ... (Superman TV show reference for those 
> not in the know).  And the hard part will be justifying the additional 
> cost.  If the machine isn't 2x the performance, would it be able to 
> justify 2x the price?  Since it appears to be a somewhat well branded 
> cluster, I am not sure that argument will be easy to make.

You are right about the economics, at least if we consider hardware alone.
According to the article the full configuration has 64 Xeon 3.4GHZ cores,
equivalent to eight cluster nodes with IB hardware.
The "fully loaded" machine price is $80k, or $10k per node.

Quoting from the article:

"A single chassis can house a maximum of 4 TB of disk or -when using the 
fastest 3.4 GHz quad-core Xeons Intel has delivered - up to 768 
gigaflops of computing power in a single chassis. (That's eight 
two-socket blades using quad-core Xeons, for a total of 64 cores). 
Obviously, three of these CX1s linked up yields 2.3 teraflops - a nice 
size for a personal super."

"The base price of the chassis with bare bones blades and switches is 
$25,000. When the machine is fully loaded, the price tag comes to around 
$80,000 or so. Cray is selling the CX1 boxes online starting today - the 
first time a Cray machine has been sold online and directly - and 
expects to have volume shipments revved up by the end of October."


Here is the link to the  CX1 on the Cray web site:


You need MS Explorer to customize/price it.

Gus Correa

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