[Beowulf] MS Cray

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Wed Sep 17 10:06:19 PDT 2008

Gus Correa wrote:
> Dear Beowulf fans
> Since I posted the Cray CX1 announcement,
> just to be fair to other players,  here are some of them:
> 1) SiCortex has a Linux and MIPS (72 processors)
> based "deskside supercomputer".
> They claim it to work with 300W of power.
> Of course, being Linux, it requires Linux literacy to use.
> See:
> http://sicortex.com/products/sc072_pds/sc072_pds_datasheet

Contrary to various public statements from some vendors, we have seen 
linux literacy on the rise, and have seen a number of organizations 
switch all their staff to it.  It turns out for them to be easier/lower 
cost to deploy and support.  I am not at liberty to say who though.

> 2) NVidia is advertising its Tesla series,
> although this GPU-based deskside system will probably work
> as a "deskside co-processor" rather than as a "deskside supercomputer".
> Literacy in CUDA, not only in C and Linux, is probably required to use 
> it effectively.
> GPU experts, please correct me if I am wrong.
> See:
> http://www.nvidia.com/object/tesla_8_series.html

CUDA is needed to program it.  You can use CUDA enabled software without 
knowing how to program in CUDA.

> There may be more "deskside supercomputers" out there,
> and I apologize to anyone that may have been omitted.
> NEC had something called SX-8i, I think, not very long ago.
> If the Cray CX1 idea sticks and the machines sell, it is likely that other
> companies will launch similar product lines.

The personal super has been around a while as an idea.  Some versions of 
it sorta kinda work, but not as a market/product.

> ***
> Deskside supercomputers, and even bigger ones,
> are starting to be marketed as "plug-and-play", as something that 
> requires little, if any,
> system administration and maintenance
> (proprietary hardware and maintenance fees are rarely mentioned),
> and not much computer literacy to be used.

The appliance model.  Great if you can get it to work in the market, but 
many codes are quite different, so you get the choice between a 1-off 
accelerator (won't sell), or the very general purpose black box (which 
often won't run the ISV codes without modification of the basic black box).

> Other postings to this thread already pointed this out.
> All they need is an available power outlet on your office wall ( ... how 
> about an Ethernet port?),
> and similar marketing arguments.
> They are marketed in contrast to clusters,
> which are pictured as complicated beasts, hard and expensive to maintain,
> requiring dedicated IT personnel, sucking more power, and leading to 
> higher TCO.

They really aren't as terrible as this.  We (and a number of others) 
make clusters that are pretty much plug-n-play.  You configure/order it, 
and it gets delivered, and works after assembly (connection to wall, 
network, cooling).  Some require more remote assembly than others, some 
you can just ship a bunch-o-boxes.

> The logic presented to decision makers would be that, besides being user 
> friendly,
> what you pay upfront for these machines you recover quickly in IT 
> salaries and utility bills.

Hmmm.... some of these arguments are valid, some are not.

> Gus Correa
> John Leidel wrote:
>> On Wed, 2008-09-17 at 10:01 -0400, Joe Landman wrote:
>>> Gerry Creager wrote:
>>>> 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     
>>> This is something I suspect you will be able to do.  The CX1 may 
>>> support Linux (and it wouldn't surprise me if it had that as an option).
>> Indeed... it supports RedHat.  Oddly enough, no mention of SLES.  Cray
>> has been running SLES on their XT login/service nodes for quite some
>> time.  I'm curious why they changed horses. 
>>>> 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.
>>> Heh... We like the under-desktop experience, with lots of fast disk 
>>> and big pipes to the disk.  Honestly, this looks like the direction 
>>> for most of "smaller" HPC that can run locally under your own 
>>> control.  The big iron/heavy metal for the large (non-prototype) jobs.
>>>> It's a tool, not a solution.
>>> Yup.  Lots of folks get lost in this, thinking that a solution == the 
>>> thing they market.  Its not.  It is just one aspect of things.  A 
>>> product is a tool.  A solution is so much more than that (and usually 
>>> starts with a statement of a problem ... otherwise it is a solution 
>>> searching for a problem).
>>> Joe
>>>> gerry
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Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423
fax  : +1 734 786 8452
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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