Xbox clusters?

Brian LaMere blamere at
Thu Dec 6 08:31:50 PST 2001

I'm quoting prices off the vendor web pages.  I'm sure anyone would give you
a sizable cut for 128 systems.

HP wanted much more just for a 1gb memory stick (like $1900) than the
systems I bought ended costing complete.  IBM was even more expensive than
HP.  We bought 6 HP lp1000r's and paid almost $8000 for them (each) and then
I got a quote from VA...for a little under $3000.  Then the next day, VA
made their announcement...which cut the price in half...heh.

There's NO reason to need 3 year warranty on a cluster node.  IF a node goes
out, replace it.  HP lp1000r's have had absolutely horrible performance (all
6 I got had to be sent back because the guard around the eth0 port was
misplaced and I couldn't plug a enet cable in.  3 of the replacements had to
be sent back cause they wouldn't even turn on).  Of the 58 VA boxes I got,
not a single one has given me a single problem.

Why pay any premium at all?

If you pay $4000 each for 128 computers, you've spent $512,000.  For the
same $512k, at $3500 each I can have 146 systems.  That's an extra 18
systems sitting to the side as stand-bys, effectively giving you far better
than a premium 4-hour response could - you have a 30 second response.
Remove from rack, replace.  Send bad box back at your leisure.

Like I said...why pay /any/ premium at all?  And I promise that if you had
obtained a quote from someone like VA or advancedclustering (or whomeever)
it would have beat the quote from IBM, Compaq, or HP by more than the 12% in
my example.  Apples to apples.  Its $2537 for a single box.  Ask them what
128 would be.

Isn't the whole point of this for it to be commodity stuff?  If I'm going to
pay crazy prices, I might as well buy a E10k or a zSeries from IBM.  The
point is to buy /cheap/ and save on the cost of such things.  You throw
price to performance rations out the window when you worry about 3 year
on-site warranties.  They're pointless.  I have your 3-year warranty beat to
peices with my 6 spare systems (that hey...I'm able to make a test cluster
out of to boot).

Brian LaMere

-----Original Message-----
From: Roger L. Smith [mailto:roger at ERC.MsState.Edu]
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2001 6:40 AM
To: Brian LaMere
Cc: 'beowulf at'
Subject: RE: Xbox clusters?

On Wed, 5 Dec 2001, Brian LaMere wrote:

>, for instance.  For $2537, you get dual p3- 1ghz
> 18gb 10krpm hotswap scsi, and 2 gb ram.  All in a 1-U package, all with a
> year warranty.  Extended warranties available.
> Why the hell use HP/IBM/Compaq?  Cost almost 3 times as much.  If I put
> together at 100 node advancedclustering cluster, for the same HP price
> you'll make a ~40 node cluster.  So...I can have half of my systems be
> at any one point and be waiting for replacement, and /still/ have far more
> systems online.

I can tell you that IBM and Compaq are not "almost 3 times as much", at
least not for us!  We recently bought 128 dual 1GHz PIII systems (1U) x330
systems (to add to the 164 dual 1GHz PIII SGI 1100 systems already
in-house) from IBM and paid only a slight premium over those "home-made"
type vendors.

For this premium, we receive a 3 year warranty (3x the warranty you
mention).  When I have a hardware failure, I make one phone call an IBM
service engineer comes on site and fixes it.  Plus I have other goodies
such as dual PCI slots in a 1U chassis, advanced system management
processor, and their console cable chaining technology.

As we analysed which vendors to use for our cluster system, we took a lot
more into account than flops/$, and we are quite pleased with our

| Roger L. Smith                        Phone: 662-325-3625               |
| Systems Administrator                 FAX:   662-325-7692               |
| roger at ERC.MsState.Edu                 http://WWW.ERC.MsState.Edu/~roger |
|                       Mississippi State University                      |
|_______________________Engineering Research Center_______________________|

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