[Beowulf] $2500 cluster. What it's good for?

Andrew M.A. Cater amacater at galactic.demon.co.uk
Sun Dec 19 16:31:32 PST 2004

On Sun, Dec 19, 2004 at 12:02:32PM -0800, Jim Lux wrote:
> >
> > There are also some other immediate things like running Mosix or Condor
> > on the cluster. A small group that has a need for a computation server
> > could find this useful for single process computational jobs.
> This brings up an interesting optimization question. Just like in many
> things (I'm thinking RF amplifiers in specific) it's generally cheaper/more
> cost effective to buy one big thing IF it's fast enough to meet the
> requirements. Once you get past what ONE widget can do, then, you're forced
> to some form of parallelism or combining smaller widgets, and to a certain
> extent it matters not how many you need to combine (to an order of
> magnitude).   The trade comes from the inevitable increase in system
> management/support/infrastructure to support N things compared to supporting
> just one. (This leaves aside high availability/high reliability kinds of
> things).
Someone else who's thought of hybrid combiners and "stuff" to produce
more RF - and potentially discovered all the fun of imbalances :)

> by the time I had it all spec'd out and figured out and costed, it turned
> out that I'd been passed by AMD/Intel, and it was better just to go buy a
> (single) faster processor.  There are some interesting power/MIPS trades
> that are non-obvious in this regime, as well as anomalous application
> environments where the development cycle is much slower (not too many "Rad
> Hard" Xeons out there).
If you have a long running problem - DON'T start it now. If it needs to
run for two years - buy next year's equipment (which is twice as fast as
today's) and run it for just one year. One year wait then one years intensive
compute - and you're still ahead. Next year's computer is
_automatically_ faster and potentially much better value for your $$ :)

> There are also inherently parallel kinds of tasks where you want to use
> commodity hardware to get multiples of some resource, rather than some
> special purpose thing (say, recording multi-track audio or the
> aforementioned video wall). Another thing is some sort of single input
> stream, multiple parallel processes for multiple outputs. High performance
> speech recognition might be an example.
High quality codecs on individual parts of a signal? Travelling salesman
type problems? Finite element modelling or NEC type antenna modelling?
De-noising pictures / signals? [Or, conversely, recovering coherent 
signals from close to the noise floor] Real time RF propagation 
correlation with all observed magnetic/auroral/weather/other propagation
factors and propagation prediction.

> What about some sort of search process with applicability to casual users
> (route finding for robotics or such...)
Correlating spammers with IP ranges: correlating spam patterns with
originators [working out ICBM missile co-ordinates for their hosting
networks and zombies :) ]
> >
> > I also have an interest in seeing a cluster version of Octave or SciLab
> > set to work like a server. (as I recall rgb had some reasons not to use
> > these high level tools, but we can save this discussion for later)
> >
> > Finally, once we all have our local clusters and software running to our
> > hearts content, maybe we can think about a grid to provide spare compute
> > cycles to educational and public projects around the world.
> >
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