HP create off-the-shelf supercomputer

Jeff Layton jeffrey.b.layton at lmco.com
Fri Oct 5 08:04:01 PDT 2001

I'm glad someone starting yelling about this load of crap. Maybe a
simple email to Bruce Perens...


Patrick Geoffray wrote:

> Folks,
> I would like to react to this serie of press releases.
> > How to build your own supercomputer: Take a few off-the-shelf,
> > stripped-down PCs, add some network switches, a maze of Ethernet cabling
> > and some homegrown Linux software, and you'll be well on your way.
> This is exactely the type of sentence that shameless companies put
> in their press releases. "Supercomputer" is the magic word that will
> attract the focus of the journalists and the political people.
> What is a "Supercomputer" ? A machine that will enter in the
> Top500 ?
> Everybody with a little bit of common sense will realize that the
> Top500 is not the list of the most powerfull supercomputers in the
> world. It's the list of machines where the Linpack benchmark
> (very well implemented in HPL) produces the biggest numbers. That's
> another story and the folks at INRIA know better than that.
> > Hewlett-Packard, together with a national laboratory in France, tried this
> > recipe out and, to the great surprise of many scientists, it worked. What
> Which great surprise ?!? Some people didn't know that Linpack is
> scaling almost linearly for this size of machine ? This is CPU
> bounded.
> > At a technical session last summer, scientists from HP's labs in Grenoble,
> > France, started talking to experts at the local INRIA Rhone-Alps (France's
> > National Institute for Research in Computer Science) about the possibility
> > of doing "something a little unusual." The idea was to build a
> > supercomputer out of standard hardware components like those that might be
> > found in the typical big business.
> Or... [HP called INRIA and told them "Hey, we have 225 machines,
> we don't know what to do with them. Here, it's for you, do something
> with that and make a lot of PRs"]. No ? Ok.
> > Other clusters, like ASCI Red at Sandia National Laboratories in New
> > Mexico, are made up of heavily modified parts.
> HP cluster at $210K versus ASCI Red. These Natl Labs are so
> stupid: why spend so much money on these ASCI boxes, when
> they can buy "mainstream" elements ?
> They spend a lot (A LOT) of money, but it's not only to run
> the Linpack benchmark and have a good rank in the Top500
> (actually, it's part of the game but it's the cherry on the cake).
> Try to run a sparse matrix computation on this HP cluster, or just
> a dense matrix computation with real matrices from disk and include
> the time to read these matrices, distribute them and collect the
> solution to disk.
> > "You could gather the latent power from office PCs using this technique,"
> > he said. "We eventually want to scale it higher, to thousands of PCs."
> Do they mean "We eventually want to invent the Grid computing".
> I am afraid they will again be the first in the world to do it.
> I know that PRs have to be nice, they are not always written by
> technical people and they are not written for technical people.
> But what is the message here ?
> If it's "just steal your secretaries' PCs, put them in the
> same room, add this nice software and hop, you have a parallel
> machine", that's a point of view.
> If it's "Just steal your secretaries' PCs, put them in the
> same room, add this nice software and hop, you have a machine
> similar to the 499 others in the Top500", that's wrong.
> There is not only dense matrix computations in the supercomputing
> world.
> Feedback welcome.
> Regards.
> Patrick
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