[Beowulf] Re: MS Cray

kyron at neuralbs.com kyron at neuralbs.com
Thu Sep 18 13:09:15 PDT 2008

>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org
>> [mailto:beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org] On Behalf Of Robert G. Brown
>> Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2008 7:22 AM
>> To: Gus Correa
>> Cc: Beowulf
>> Subject: Re: [Beowulf] Re: MS Cray
>> On Wed, 17 Sep 2008, Gus Correa wrote:
>> > After I configured it with eight dual-slot quad-core Xeon E5472
>> > (3.0GHz) compute nodes, 2GB/core RAM,  IPMI,  12-port DDR IB switch
>> > (their smallest), MS Windows installed, with one year standard 9-5
>> > support, and onsite installation, the price was over $82k.
>> > It sounds pricey to me, for an 8 node cluster.
>> > Storage or viz node choices, 24-port IB to connect to other
>> > enclosures, etc, are even more expensive.
>> Again, excellently well put.  This is literally the bottom
>> line.  What we are really talking about is form factor and
>> who does what.  People usually are pretty careful with their
>> money, at least within their range of knowledge.  When bladed
>> systems first started coming out -- which was many years ago
>> at this point -- I did a bit of an on-list CBA of them and
>> concluded that there was a price premium of something like a
>> factor of 2 for them, compared to the price of an equivalent
>> stack of rackmounted nodes, more like 3 compared to a shelf
>> full of tower units.
>> I asked "why would anyone pay that"?
> <snip of rgb's excellent description of infrastructure issues>
>> This little exercise in the realities of infrastructure
>> planning exposes the fallacy of the "desktop cluster" in MOST
>> office environments, including research miniclusters in a lot
>> of University settings.  There exist spaces -- perhaps big
>> labs, with their own dedicated climate control and lots of
>> power -- where one could indeed plug right in and run, but
>> your typical office or cubicle is not one of them.  Those
>> same spaces have room for racks, of course, if they have room
>> for a high density blade chassis.
>> If you already have, or commit to building, an infrastructure
>> space with rack room, real AC, real power, you have to look
>> SERIOUSLY at whether you want to pay the price premium for
>> small-form factor solutions.  But that premium is a lot
>> smaller than it was eight or so years ago, and there ARE
>> places with that proverbial broom closet or office that is
>> the ONLY place one can put a cluster.  For them, even with
>> the relatively minor renovations needed to handle 3-4 KW in a
>> small space, it might well be worth it.
> I suspect that there is some non-negligible demand for these boxes,
> notwithstanding the high cost. (esp viewed in terms of keeping the mfr
> line for the product going.. Not like either Cray or MS is depending on
> these sales to keep the company alive)
> How about as an "executive toy" for the guy in the corner office running
> financial models? (I am a Master of the Universe, and I must have my
> special data entirely under my control.)
> How about in places where the organizational pain that comes with being in
> the "machine room" is high? (All systems in the main computer room shall
> be under the cognizance of Senior VicePresident of MachineRoom Operations
> Smith. SVP Smith dictates: All systems in the machine room shall be made
> available to all users so as to efficiently allocate computational
> resources, since my bonus depends on reducing the metric of "idle time
> percentage".  SVP of IT Security Jones: All shared computational resources
> shall use the corporate standard software disk encryption and must run
> both McAfee and Symantec AntiVirus in continuous scan mode.  SVP of
> Network Management Wilson: In order to achieve maximum commonality and
> facilitate continuing reuse of computing assets purchased in 1991, all
> computers shall provide a connection of 10Base2 Ethernet at 2 Mbps. SVP of
> CustomerProprietaryInformationSecurity Brown: All systems in the
> machineroom shall use the corporate secure SAN.  And so it g!
>  oes..)
Yupp, that's where we are at and it's why they hire students like me to
take care of the dep's isolated server room because most the SVPs think
HPC == HA (clustering).
> I think the model that John Vert mentioned, using it as a software
> development workstation to try things out before running on the "big iron"
> is actually probably a more likely scenario. And for that, you might not
> want the full up configuration, just enough to make it a "real" cluster so
> you can work out the interprocessor communications issues.
> Jim

If that is the case, just get a multi-core system with Linux. And if you
like FluFF (and treasure your auditory capabilities), get a Power Mac.


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