[Beowulf] Sun Fire X2100 Server

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Thu Sep 29 07:28:17 PDT 2005

Maurice Hilarius writes:

> Other than that, what other significant differences between A64
> andOpteron are there that matter here?
> They do not need additional HT links as they are not SMP 2xx or 8xx CPUs.

Ya, what he said, what he said.  

I'm very fond of A64s at the moment.  Think "killer desktop for about
what one would pay for a Celeron".  Think "incredibly cheap cluster
node".  I just paid $469 total literally over the counter for a gigabyte
of PC3200 (one stick), an A64 3000+, and a desktop motherboard with
integrated gigabit and video -- I'm certain that if one shopped the net
one could do even better.  For about $300 more I could have gotten a
dual core A64 at pretty much the same clock.

That is, you can build a desktop or compute node that is really really
close to the performance of the dual 242 Opterons we have in our cluster
-- maybe a bit FASTER, in fact, for cpu bound or weakly memory bound
code -- for less than a kilobuck.  And don't sneer at HT (transport, not
threading) -- I just think of it as "the network inside my workstation".
I'm willing to be convinced otherwise if anyone disagrees, of course,
but at the moment I think that it is a simply lovely technology that
really does extend the performance boundaries that most matter to HPC.

Truthfully, for raw CPU I suspect that the A64 is the current world
champion in the flops/$$ race.  More expensive technologies (e.g.
opterons) or slower AND more expensive technologies (e.g. Intel CPUs)
may well be justified by other considerations, mind you, but that's a
whole lot of raw FLOPS for a kilobuck.  So sure, if you have a
memory-bandwidth-bound problem you probably want to avoid dual cores and
go dual opteron, and dual-cpu dual-core opterons can probably equal or
exceed a dual A64 in price performance with other advantages as well for
non-memory-bound problems, but AFAIAC the A64 is an Intel-killer CPU.

It "should" give the celery and P4 (Xeon or no) a well-deserved and long
awaited dirt nap, and force Intel to "get real" with a number of issues
(like price/performance, price, and performance).  The processor market
isn't exactly healthy, but it is a damn sight healthier than the
operating system market, and even with longstanding market domination
and annoying and (in my opinion) marginally antitrust-legal agreements
with vendors such as Dell they have to respect the competition from AMD.
In the long run (which isn't very long in the hardware business)
superior engineering and P/P wins, and at the moment AMD enjoys an edge
in both.


> --
> Regards,
>     Maurice
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