[Beowulf] K Computer built for speed, not use

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Oct 11 08:16:29 PDT 2012


A good example of specialized computing would be the work that DE Shaw is doing.  They're building specialized ASICs (or FPGA programs) tailored for their chemistry applications, to get multiple order of magnitude improvement over general purpose solutions.  Clearly they think it's worthwhile: it's a high risk, high reward sort of industry

Jim Lux


-----Original Message-----
From: beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org [mailto:beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org] On Behalf Of Mark Hahn
Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 9:38 PM
To: Beowulf Mailing List
Subject: Re: [Beowulf] K Computer built for speed, not use

> Any general purpose system will inevitably underperform for some 
>people, and many might argue that the art of managing such a project is 
>making sure everyone squawks equally loud about how the stake is being 
>driven into their heart.

I think of it from the other direction: a specialized machine would need to demonstrate really significant savings.  an astrophysics machine might actually use many times fewer transistors than a commodity processors (as one of Makino's slides shows), but could it do anything else?  perhaps some forms of MD.  but making transistors work harder is, today, not necessarily a winning strategy, since managing heat is probably the dominant concern.

if a domain somehow looks like it's on the verge of a breakthrough, and specialized hardware is going to give a 100x advantage, well, that sounds pretty good.  if a dedicated cosmology box is going to bring only a 3x speedup and still be 1e6 away from resolving important processes, well, I say "get in line for a general-purpose account"...

though this argument also hinges somewhat on the expectation of demand being bursty _across_ domains.

regards, mark hahn.
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