[Beowulf] 96 Processors Under Your Desktop (fwd from brian-slashdotnews at hyperreal.org)

Mark Hahn hahn at physics.mcmaster.ca
Mon Aug 30 21:38:01 PDT 2004

> iron" machine, but is very effective, and very fast for some things. 

sure, but not for a large number of "traditional" HPC things.
IIRC, you've got a VIA cluster, which will have compromises similar
to the transmeta chips: modest clock, but OK efficiency in-cache,
fairly poor memory bandwidth, and fairly poor network.  given that 
the traditional supercomputing approach (btw, doesn't big iron actually
refer to mainframes, which are wimpy compute wise, but have very large
quantities of spinning metal?) is *primarily* concerned with out-of-cache
performance, including memory-bandwidth and interconnect-intensive codes...

> Also, a low power use cluster is the only way I can have a significant 
> cluster in my apartment, so it was to be this way, or no way. At 

no insult intended, but do you need a cluster in your apt?  I've
personally found no real need for more than a terminal (old athlon
and nice screen) at home, since the cable monopoly gives me a 14ms 
link to plenty o clusters at work.

> I can think of 
> many situations where it would be desirable to have a deskside cluster 
> for computation, development, or testing, 

not to be argumentative, but can you justify that a bit more tangibly?
I do lots of testing on my remote clusters - modern servers have very nice
remote-management facilities, so power on/of, warm/cold reset are easy to 
do over the net.  obviously, development is easy to do over the network;
are you thinking about some kind of elaborate gui-only environment that 
simply doesn't work well over a WAN?

> A 450 watt , 10 GFLP parallel computing machine for about $10K seems 

again, it depends on your code - the orion machine will work well for 
embarassingly parallel, cache-friendly codes.  nothing wrong with them!

more interesting is what this says about the "blade" market.  I looked 
at the IBM bladecenter again today, configured with the dual-ppc blades.
it's reasonable as blades go, but it's pretty obvious that it doesn't 
compare all that well versus this Orion stuff.  maybe Orion's real niche
will be web-hosting ;)

btw, did anyone notice whether their ram is ECC or not?  like memory
bandwidth or interconnect latency, that's another men-from-boys HPC issue.

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