[Beowulf] Re: MS Cray

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Thu Sep 18 11:46:38 PDT 2008

On Thu, 18 Sep 2008, Mark Hahn wrote:

>>  * Cluster people with significant constraints on space, power, or AC.
> just space, really.  blade systems used to be almost unique in offering
> high-efficiency power solutions, but I think most or all that's become 
> available in the commodity market now.  (that is, 80-90% psu's in normal
> 1U servers).
> and remember, less space and approximately the same power means higher 
> heat-density.  I've never seen a lot of fully populated blade enclosures
> in one spot (which is kinda the point), though it should be doable with 
> rack-back heat exchangers.
> actually, are there any blade systems that skip air-cooling entirely?
> that would actually make sense - if you're going to go for bespoke power
> because of potentially greater efficiency, bespoke cooling makes sense
> for the same reason.
>>  * businesses that want a turnkey system, typically for HA
>> applications, that is compact and "easy" to support.
> that part never made sense to me.  I'm skeptical that the management 
> interface for blade systems is better than plain old IPMI.  prettier,
> perhaps.

Agreed and agreed, but there it is.  If nothing else, a small system
that hides its "rackiness" LOOKS easier to manage than a rack of 1U or
3U boxes.  And I admit I don't know the MTBF numbers and couldn't tell
you if they are more reliable or less expensive to manage.  However,
they never quite go away, so somebody keeps buying them... and I doubt
that a lot are bought by clusterheads.  ;-)

>> And that is fair enough, actually.  Some places one literally has a
>> closet to put one's cluster in, and if one populates the closet with a
> a closet which just happens to have a huge jet of cold air going through 
> it...
> http://www.cray.com/Products/CX1/Product/Specifications.aspx
> claims 1600W, 92% efficient.  their pages don't give much info on the 
> engineering of the blades, though.  given that you have to add ipmi
> as an option card, it looks pretty close to commodity parts to me.

1600W for 8 8-core, 300 MHz, 2 GB/core RAM blades at full computational

I don't believe it.  I don't think my laptop averages that little (25W)
per core, sustained, using clock shifting and sitting around idle a lot.
It is sitting on my lap at the moment and is burning my hands on the
wrist-rests and my legs through my pants just a little, all the time, at
800 MHz idle except for typing.

Somebody just mailed me specs offline that suggested 375W/card, which is
at least not completely unreasonable (although I'd want to see
Kill-a-Watt validated wall-power draw, not a number that might be some
sort of "average" or might refer to idle power of their slowest clock
system.  My KaW shows anywhere from 20-40% power variability from idle
to load in many systems, and the power drawn by the CPU, or a minimally
configured motherboard isn't the same as that drawn by a full system
including heat losses in the power supply etc.

1600W sounds not unreasonable for a >>4<< blade system, and is still a
wee bit warm for MY office, but one might be able to plug it into a 20A
circuit and not instantly blow the breaker.  And with 3 blades, or 2, it
would still have 16-24 cores -- a very respectable total. But then one
could match it with a couple or three towers, which would also have
about the same footprint (except for height) and would almost certainly
cost only half as much.


Robert G. Brown                            Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
Duke University Physics Dept, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb
Book of Lilith Website: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Lilith/Lilith.php
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