[Beowulf] Rackable / SGI

Jan Heichler jan.heichler at gmx.net
Thu Apr 2 02:13:28 PDT 2009

Hallo Kilian,

Donnerstag, 2. April 2009, meintest Du:

KC> On Wednesday 01 April 2009 16:19:57 John Hearns wrote:
>> > There are a few services/integration HPC
>> > companies in the EU, but not any that I'm aware of selling their own
>> > hardware, as Scalable or Penguin do.

>> ????? I know that both Streamline and Clustervision will do you a
>> Supermicro build.
>> I think you are talking to the wrong people to be honest!

>> I put in a very nice machine for QMU in London with Supermicro twins
>> and Infiniband.

KC> My bad here for not being explicit enough. By "their own hardware", I meant
KC> "hardware they put a lot of thought in, that they carefully conceived and
KC> designed, and have manufactured according to their own needs and guidelines",

Let me ask: why is that important?

What is driving HPC is the commodity approach. Use what is used a million-times all over the world. Where is the need to engineer something different? 

KC> not "Supermicro boxes". Not that Supermicro boxes are low grade or not a good
KC> fit for the job, just that they generally are multi-purpose components, not
KC> necessarily designed with HPC as a first concern. And Supermicro is not quite
KC> a small company either.

If you look at the Supermicro Twin for example: that System is designed for HPC. I can't think of many ways to make it better...

And if a small company does something new you won't sell a huge quantity. So the components get (usually) more expensive. The engineering isn't quite as advanced (because it is expensive) and many errors just show when you have a larger install-base. 

KC> Anyway, I was thinking about companies like Penguin or Scalable, designing
KC> their own hardware products, like Relions or JackRabbits, and not just
KC> reselling Supermicro boxes. Unless I'm mistaken on the fact that those systems
KC> are somewhat different from off-the-shelf boxes. 

Mhh... a Relion server does not look very different from Intel-Servers (i mean the intel-oem products). A Jackrabbit seems to be a standard Chenbro/ICP/Whatever chassis with commodity Boards/Controllers/Disks. The real trick is probably the software. 

So don't get me wrong: don't want to mock their products. And it seems that some customers really like the idea of companies having "own products". I worked for a company with a own product line before - but behind that there was Supermicro/Intel/MSI... you name it. Customer didn't had real advantage... was just a marketing thing. 

KC> I don't know about Streamline, but AFAIK, Clustervision "just" resells big
KC> names hardware, they don't make their own. 

That is true (for ClusterVision). We (i'm with ClusterVision) are investing in our Software - because there we see a lot of potential to do better than what you see on the market. Hardware is not that different - except for the brand-name.

KC> It's not a bad thing per se, just a
KC> way to point out the fact that HPC-wise, the market is pretty different here
KC> and there, and that purchasing options seem sparser to me in the EU compared
KC> to the US.

I don't think it is that different.

Even a company like SGI doesn't seem big enough to really have own hardware (and live with what you earn for it on the market). And even if ICE is a nice system - it is not that much different from what other BladeSystems are doing. So why should a customer bother?

KC> So, to get back to the original discussion, SGI disappearing from the 
KC> landscape means one less option to choose from. Considering the fact that
KC> those options are already kind of fewer than in the US, the relative loss is
KC> more perceptible.

Maybe i'm too young to really see SGI going down as a big loss - in my time they were just another Intel-Selling company with a strange attitude and really expensive products. But i never understood the excitement about Sun either ;-)

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