[Beowulf] The True Cost of HPC Cluster Ownership

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Tue Aug 11 09:16:49 PDT 2009

Gerry Creager wrote:
> Daniel Pfenniger wrote:
>> Douglas Eadline wrote:


>> This article sounds unbalanced and self-serving.
> I thought it read a bit like a chronicle of my recent experiences.

I think that this article is fine, not unbalanced.  What I like to point 
out to customers and partners is

	There is a cost to *EVERYTHING*

Heinlein called it TANSTAAFL.  Every single decision you make carries 
with it a set of costs.

What purchasing agents, looking at the absolute rock bottom prices do 
not seem to grasp, is that those costs can *easily* swamp any purported 
gains from a lower price, and raise the actual landed price, due to 
expending valuable resource time (Gerry et al) for months on end working 
to solve problems that *should* have been solved previously.

There is a cost to going cheap.  This cost is time, and loss of 
productivity.  If your time (your students time) is free, and you don't 
need to pay for consequences (loss of grants, loss of revenue, loss of 
productivity, ...) in delayed delivery of results from computing or 
storage systems, then, by all means, roll these things yourself, and 
deal with the myriad of debugging issues in making the complex beasts 
actually work.  You have hardware stack issues, software stack issues, 
interaction issues, ...

What I am saying is that Doug is onto something here.  It ain't easy. 
Doug simply expressed that it isn't.

As for the article being self serving?  I dunno, I don't think so.  Doug 
runs a consultancy called Basement Supercomputing that provides services 
for such folks.  I didn't see overt advertisements, or even, really, 
covert "hire us" messages.  I think this was fine as a white paper, and 
Doug did note that it started life as one.

My $0.02

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics Inc.
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423 x121
fax  : +1 866 888 3112
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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