[Beowulf] MS Cray

Gerry Creager gerry.creager at tamu.edu
Wed Sep 17 06:22:31 PDT 2008

Gus Correa wrote:
> 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 
> students. 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:
> http://www.cray.com/products/CX1.aspx
> You need MS Explorer to customize/price it.

I just knew you had to be wrong, but sure enough, I can't see config 
options.  It's a show stopper for me.  If I need IE to buy the system, 
it's not likely to happen until A) there's an IE that runs natively on 
*nix, and B) it doesn't have the myriad problems associated with IE in 
the past.

I do admit to a sinking feeling when I noted that the front page (and of 
course, the subsequent pages) were ASPX...

I suspect Microsoft has been listening here.  I also suspect this 
machine will do ok in the business world, but somehow I doubt they're 
gonna see significant headway in a lot of the scientific arenas.  If you 
aren't computer literate, you're not likely to port a complicated model 
from *nix to Windows, nor are you likely to write a significant piece of 
code.  I've a geodesist friend who DOES write solely for Windows, but 
that's a conscious choice by someone who was a talented computer 
scientist first, and a geodesist later in life.  He uses Windows 
because, well, mainly because the folks he teaches, and writes code for, 
do.  However, he's the exception.

The CX1 looks like something I'd love next to my desk -- with Linux on 
it -- to accomplish testing before I take something to the big iron.  It 
might even allow me to pre- and post-process my data for hurricane WRF 
runs.  It's not hefty enough to let me do those runs in the timeframe I 
require otherwise.

It's a tool, not a solution.


Gerry Creager -- gerry.creager at tamu.edu
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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