[Beowulf] Win64 Clusters!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Fri Apr 6 19:56:46 PDT 2007

Mark Hahn wrote:
>> Where would people on this list place the credit for HPC going
>> mainstream? If I had to pick one source, which is unfair to do, it would
> I believe there is just one source, perfectly fair: cheap hardware.

Cheap and powerful hardware.  COTS hardware was/is on a power curve 
(power delivered to applications) that non-COTS technologies could not 
match.  Economies and customer demands of scale can do surprising things 
to capabilities and focus.

The "ah-ha" moment for me was some time in 97 or 98 when I ran my old 
molecular dynamics code on a Pentium II or III (don't remember 
precisely), and it was within a factor of 2 in performance of the big 
RISC boxes I used, which cost far more than 10x more.  Then the 
informatics codes around the 1999 time frame were faster on the Pentia 
than the RISC boxes.

Cheaper and faster.  This combination rarely loses.

> I don't think any of the software is all that wonderful, or has it 
> changed that much over the years.  and the user doesn't
> really care anyway about, for instance, MPI.
> or, for that matter, whether the compute node runs linux or windows.

On the contrary, I think (at least RGB has convinced me) that end users 
*do* care if costs scale linearly with number of processors.  This 
provides sometimes significant barriers to them adopting more 
computational power.  Costs in this case include acquisition and 
maintenance.  If you set up some sort of diskless booting via 
Warewulf/Perceus/..., or highly simplified install via Rocks, or use a 
Scyld-like SSI-type model, the maintenance costs are going to be low in 
general.  If you use something that requires a license per node, and 
additional costs due to security requirements, then your costs will 
likely scale linearly per node, and the maintenance costs will also 
scale like this.

We know lots of users that stop at smaller clusters, not due to the cost 
and complexity of setting them up.  Rather, they stop at particular 
sizes due almost entirely to the cost of the application software per 
seat.  Most end users (at least in the commercial world) buy clusters to 
run pre-existing codes.  Most ISVs like deploying to fixed "supportable" 
configurations.  They also like it when a customer has a fixed budget, 
that more of the budget is spent with them rather than the linear scale 

Customers don't really care about the OS on the machine.  They just care 
whether or not it will work well, how much it is going to cost them, and 
what the support issues will be.  Its not what it is, its what you do 
with it.

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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