[Beowulf] newbie's dilemma

David Kewley kewley at gps.caltech.edu
Thu Mar 16 08:03:06 PST 2006

A late reader chimes in...  Regarding maintenance and power, here is my 
experience with Dell nodes.

Dell, of course, makes it very easy to buy e.g. 3 years' maintenance, at 
various service levels.  If anyone *does* get more than a handful of Dell 
nodes, I'd recommend getting in addition Dell Warranty Parts Direct (search 
for it).  For $180/year, and an online self-test, two of your people get 
the ability to order replacement parts directly through the Dell website, 
and to get on a devoted phone help queue (rather than the ordinary, 
possibly time-consuming queue).  There are some limitations; see the 

I should also add that I've not yet taken the online test myself, and 
therefore have not actually gotten service via this route.  But it sounds 
like an excellent idea for a cluster owner, and it has come highly 
recommended.  Got a bad hard drive?  Spend 5 minutes ordering a replacement 
on the web, rather than 30-120 minutes letting a phone support person run 
you through their required script.

Regarding power, our compute nodes are Dell PowerEdge 1850s with:

* 2x CPUs, 3.2 GHz EM64T Xeon, 1-2 MB cache, single core
* 3G GM RAM (6x 512 MB sticks, ECC, PC2 3200)
* 1 SCSI hard drive
* 1 power supply
* Myrinet 2G card

They use slightly over 200W when idle, and slightly over 300W when at 100% 
on both CPUs running e.g. HPL.


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