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

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Mon Dec 20 14:06:10 PST 2004

On Mon, 20 Dec 2004, Andrew M.A. Cater wrote:

> 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 $$ :)

The only real problem with this is that Moore's Law is just about
exactly where this argument says that we should never attack any long
running problem.  For example, people who do lattice gauge simulations
used to complain that there wasn't enough CPU on the planet to do their
computations (this was 10-12 years ago).  This of course didn't stop
them from doing them anyway, in spite of the fact that they would have
gotten as much or more net work done if they hadn't done any
computations at all until a year ago and then spent all their money on a
massive supercluster to do it all at once.

In the meantime, many deserving high-energy theorists have been saved
from begging in the street, many graduate students have been graduated,
hundreds of administrators (systems and otherwise), many employees
working in many companies making hardware have been kept from
starvation. Indeed the ongoing high volume purchases of relatively high
end hardware is one of the things that keeps prices dropping and Moore's
Law on track.

This isn't to say that your argument has no merit, just that it is more
complicated than just this.


Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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